Horror is a difficult genre, especially in this day and age. Speculations as to why they don’t make them like they used to are a constant topic of debate. Now there’s 10 Cloverfield Lane, fuelling the discussion once more.
Cloverfield was highly anticipated back in 2008 and managed to disappoint at best and make viewers sick at worst. It more or less killed found footage films because it was too shaky, too blurry, too amateurish. However, the universe that was thought up by author Drew Goddard and produced by J. J. Abrams, who apparently also had a hand in writing the movie or giving ideas but isn’t credited for it, still holds interest. Where does the creature, nicknamed Clover by the production department, come from? What does it do? And most importantly, what is up with the final shot of Cloverfield, where a satellite can be seen crashing into the sea in the background of a seemingly harmless shot?
Next week, 10 Cloverfield Lane hits cinemas. Its trailers promise plenty of intensity, but fans are – among other things – wondering about the larger universe. If you’re one of those people, keep this shot in mind. It will creep up on you.
Atmospheric Horror and then Some
For the most part, 10 Cloverfield Lane is a lot like a classic horror movie, reminiscent of a time where special effects were expensive and CGI couldn’t just make the impossible possible on a budget. Removing that, the entire crew of the movie had to focus on everything but the big effects. So the acting needs to be flawless, the writing needs to be top notch and set design as well as production needs to be well thought-out. 10 Cloverfield Lane succeeds at all this.
The story, though, sounds simple and the amount of thought that all involved have put into it only reveals itself as the story progresses. A woman named Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) has an accident on the road. She passes out and wakes up chained to a pipe with an injured leg. A man named Howard (John Goodman) has put her there and informs her that she can’t call anyone because there isn’t anyone left. She can’t go out, because the air is contaminated. By what he doesn’t know. But luckily, explains Howard, he has managed to save himself and her as well as a guy named Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.) into his private bunker that he built in case of apocalypse.
Needless to say, Michelle doesn’t believe a word he’s saying and thinks herself a prisoner in this underground bunker. She plans to escape, despite all evidence pointing towards the outside world actually having suffered some kind of attack and Howard actually being right.
A Cast of Six, One Outstanding Performance
The movie is deliberately kept small. Apart from the three lead actors, there’s only three more people who have speaking parts. Of these three, we don’t see two and one appears in only one scene. So the entire movie hinges on John Gallagher Jr., Mary Elizabeth Winstead and John Goodman. It is the latter who steals the show. He has an amazing presence in every scene he’s in and he manages to give a very nuanced and unsettling performance. He manages to be menacing, controlled, insane and unhinged at the same time somehow. He’s almost impossible to pin down even in the calmest of scenes.
Now, don’t get me wrong. All the actors deliver very, very good work and they manage to create an atmosphere of sheer terror just by sitting around a table or playing a family game. They adapt their performance to the setting and manage to put viewers on the edge of their seats until almost all the way through.
This edge-of-the-seat feeling finds its ending at the tail-end of the third act, where there’s a dramatic shift in the movie, adding an unforeseen twist to the entire movie. But it’s so unforeseen that it comes completely out of left field. Even when combined with Cloverfield, it still appears to make no sense at all.
The connection to its spiritual predecessor has to be searched for and I would have honestly missed it if I hadn’t been tipped off to re-watch the final scene from Cloverfield again. It’s a smart connection, but it’s a rather loose one, I’ll give it that. It’s pretty perfect for a smart and tense movie such as 10 Cloverfield Lane. It’s not surprising that this movie has become a hit and already earned more than three times its $15 million budget.
As for fans of the universe by J.J. Abrams et al, the movie adds questions, but holds very little in the way of answers. Therefore: Here’s to hoping for more movies set in this universe.
10 Cloverfield Lane opens in Swiss cinemas on March 31st, 2016. Here’s a trailer.