10 Cloverfield Lane

10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)
Dir: Dan Trachtenberg

‘Cloverfield’ felt like a big event back in 2008 and became one of those films that almost everyone saw, though polarising audiences between really impressed and underwhelmed. For better or worse it can be blamed for bolstering the ‘found-footage’ trend that still somehow refuses to die. While not a sequel, this thematically-linked film was developed on the quiet, amazingly managing to be a big surprise in an era in which every step of a film’s production is publicised.

A woman (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) wakes from a road accident in an underground bunker, distrustful of her host (John Goodman) and unsure of what’s really going on outside.

When the shock trailer was released for this in January 2016 I wrote a little post about how it was unexpected, something I really like. Essentially J. J. Abrams ‘Lemonaded’ us all (it can be used as a verb now apparently). For a film of this nature with a relatively simple premise and small cast, to be titularly linked to a previously successful movie to form an unforeseen franchise was an inspired move and no doubt boosted interest and box-office revenue.

The screenplay was not originally developed as a ‘Cloverfield’ sequel, and in promotion it was downplayed as not being a sequel but described as tangentially linked, so that should give you an inkling of possibly what to expect. However, it’s very surprising just how simple it’s kept. There’s little more than one small location and a handful of characters, putting all the efforts into how the story unfolds, slowly piecing details together and rapidly shifting suspicions that keep it gripping from start to end.

I love how moments in the film made me rethink how I felt about a character, shifting the sense of distrust in an instant. I’ve seen it twice now with different friends and each time their reactions were the same, with young women especially shouting at the screen (I’d normally tell them off but it was funny), asking the questions you know the characters are wondering or frantically urging action. There’s also a brilliantly prolonged unsettling feeling, it’s not reliant on jump scares or shocking moments though there are a few of them, the sustained mysteries and intensely dramatic scenes make it a very engaging watch that kept my attention completely.

What it builds to for the last scenes of the film is good and makes some sense, however, I felt that what has preceded was so effective in its tone and simplicity, that I wouldn’t have minded a little more ambiguity and uncertainty following through into the conclusion. I know why the conclusion is of that nature (dodging spoilers) but I can equally see that a simpler end or one that didn’t answer some questions could have been just as effective, leaving some things to linger far beyond the end credits.

There’s another of these linked films in the works, with a much bigger cast and budget, though it’s reportedly been pushed back a little to February 2018. I’d love to think that at some point in the franchise, if that’s what it’s becoming, they will give a sense that these were all linked in some bigger more pivotal way, hopefully with a genius-level twist that ties these differing perspectives on world-changing events in a way that matches the shocks and surprises in this film.

Available from all the usual outlets including VOD, this is a really gripping film with some brilliant performances. Everyone I’ve seen it with found themselves completely engrossed and I thoroughly enjoyed my second time watching it even though I knew what was coming. 

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