I loved Cloverfield. As an avid monster movie fan and gamer—I liken the feel of Cloverfield to a mix of Call of Duty and Resident Evil—this is not the type of sequel I anticipated. When the marketing for 10 Cloverfield Lane came out, I was baffled that what looked like a psychological thriller bore the Cloverfield title and was the supposed next entry in a giant alien monster movie franchise. All these things left my expectations low but hopeful.
The beginning starts cautiously, establishing the mood with a strong and foreboding score at the forefront. You are given details and character hints without any dialogue. Then, once you’ve been established in the world and you settle in for what you expect to be a slow build to the first tension of a slow psychological thriller, everything explodes on screen in full audio and visual. I think this opening epitomizes the shock that I felt throughout the entire film. This movie is an odd but pleasant surprise throughout, and definitely nothing I was expecting.
The thing that stands out first is the score and the sound mixing. The mechanical noise of the door opening and shutting, the clatter of objects, the jostling of a car shaking and rolling; all the sound in the film feels like it’s turned up to 11 and it presents a visceral world that keeps you braced for something terrible yet to come. At some points I thought the sound and the score might’ve tried a little too hard to push the drama of a scene, but they played a big part in shaping it as well. Ultimately, as the film rises to its peaks the sound really stands out in delivering the drama of each scene.
Now, we get to the characters. When a movie is about three people in an enclosed space, it doesn’t have much to prop itself up with when it comes to action and visuals. This makes the character development and dialogue so much more important and 10 Cloverfield Lane delivers. John Goodman succeeds in bringing to life a character so real you physically retract into your seat from him. Howard has all his ticks and his flaws, as any good conspiracy theorist does; but he isn’t a villain in the way the Joker or Goldfinger are. He’s grounded in firm beliefs and mental misconceptions that you can see turning as the film continues. Whenever Howard did something I could see it and believe it, I could hear the voice in the back of his head or from his past leading him to action, and this is a beautiful victory of writing and stellar acting that I can’t praise enough.
Now, when I talk about 10 Cloverfield Lane as a whole there is a bit of inception going on here, or as I’d like to call it you-dipped-your-sci-fi-in-my-psychological-thriller. Spoiler alert: there are aliens in this movie, and I think this is going to be a polarizing aspect of the film. As I see it there is the story of three people in a bunker, which definitely holds my interest and is beautifully done; then, there is the mystery of what’s outside and how does this ultimately tie into Cloverfield.
The drama portion and all of the intricacies of the bunker and Howard are all done amazingly. I was thrilled and shocked from start to finish; however, I am on the fence about the alien apocalypse roaming outside. I love the idea of telling vibrant distinct stories inside of an event like Cloverfield. It’s a unique take on a franchise and I’m glad they tried it, but I feel the alien plot hitched onto the end of the movie felt over-the-top. Even though there are moments that I absolutely love, Molotov cocktail anyone, and the beats of the aliens are well woven, it ultimately would’ve been better not knowing what comes next after the bunker. So, I could take a deep breath after the tense ending of that three person thriller and have a cathartic sigh of relief as the credits roll.
That being said, I’m not one to dwell on what could’ve been. I think this movie is awesome and an unorthodox but brilliant way to expand the Cloverfield franchise. I think people looking for a tense psychological thriller will get their money’s with and I for one spent a lot of the movie grinning at the amazing character development and braced back in my seat, hands clenched waiting for what came next. I’ll give this movie a 7.9 out of 10 for the strange balance of the alien backdrop; but in all honesty, if you have a sci-fi bone in your body, you won’t mind.
Dan Trachtenberg: Director
Josh Campbell, Matthew Stuecken, and Damien Chazelle: Screenplay
John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and John Gallagher Jr.: Stars
Jeremiah Trotter is an avid super hero nerd and appreciator of the adaptation. He believes in the power of catharsis and gets more attached to fictional characters than real people. His favorite things by category are: Favorite book series, Harry Potter; Favorite inspirational film, Children of Men; Favorite superhero film, The Dark Knight; Favorite cult film, Donnie Darko; Favorite comedy, Mean Girls; Favorite buddy cop film, Rush Hour; Favorite Netflix show, Jessica Jones; Favorite superhero, Spider-Man; Favorite fruit, Strawberries.