Director: Dan Trachtenberg
Cast: John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and John Gallagher Jr
Running Time: 104 minutes
Release Date: March 18th
The odd thing about 10 Cloverfield Lane is that it might be the first movie in existence that is better suited to viewers who haven’t heard of – let alone seen – the original. That 2008 found-footage monster movie remains something of a unique creature, with this sorta-sequel about as closely related as that second cousin of yours that you don’t see very often. Yes, you’re aware of each other, you might even live in the same neighbourhood, but you don’t have all that much in common, hence the helpful distancing between you both.
Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) finds herself in having gone full Paul Sheldon-in-Misery, waking up from a car crash with a damaged leg and tied to a bed. Here though, the snowy cabin is replaced by a bomb shelter, and Annie Wilkes is replaced by Howard (John Goodman), who is jabbering on about toxic explosions outside which means they might have to spend the next year or two down there waiting for the radiation to subside. Also along for the claustrophobic ride is Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.), who came running to Howard’s shelter before Michelle’s arrival, vaguely describing an attack “like something out of the Bible”.
From there, the three-hander continues to twist and turn as we learn more about Howard, his personal life and the possibilities of what is exactly happening outside, and the script – in part written by Whiplash writer/director Damien Chazelle – does a good job of constantly keeping the screws turning, never once allowing the audience to get into the position of thinking “But what doesn’t she just do X?”. First-time feature-director Dan Trachtenberg (check out his short Portal: No Escape on YouTube, featuring another woman using her wits to escape a bunker) keeps thing smart and economic, but the entire movie is lurking in the shadow of that big, bulking beast of the original. Essentially, try as they might to keep us distracted, that title leaves us constantly waiting for the other, monster-sized shoe to drop.
And when the rug pull does come, you’ll either be on board, or be in a completely different, entirely rug-less room. Having built-up a psychological thriller chamber-piece, the answer to the is-it-or-isn’t-it-related question is oddly satisfying while simultaneously ensuring the rest of the movie doesn’t add up to the sum of its parts. It also retroactively changes how you’ll view the original Cloverfield, which leads us back to the fact that this is a movie perhaps best suited to those completely unaware of Manhattan’s flattening.
That title might mean a bigger box office draw, and the out-of-nowhere arrival is certainly something Hollywood should be getting behind, but as much as this movie would love to exist in a vacuum, it simply doesn’t. Had it been called literally anything else, you’d have no idea this was related back to the original, but those ties create a meta-stranglehold on what we’re expecting from this movie, which is disappointing, as there was plenty here to keep a stranglehold on the audience all by itself.