Tense and claustrophobic, 10 Cloverfield Lane provides an entertaining and thrilling experience, beyond the original. To state first, knowledge of the original Cloverfield (2008) is not required to enjoy 10 Cloverfield Lane, if anything, going into this film blind may be the best way to experience the tension.
Directed by Dan Trachtenberg, making his feature length directorial debut , and with a minimal cast, consisting of only three principle characters, we feel just as enclosed and trapped as they seen, led by Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World (2010), Die Hard 4.0 (2007)), John Goodman (The Big Lebowski (1998), Monsters Inc. (2001)), and John Gallagher Jr. (The Belko Experiment (2016), Hush (2016)). Michelle (Winstead) finds herself in a car accident, being run off the road, and wakes chained to a wall, hooked up to an IV drip, in the basement of a strangers house. After coming to her senses, she meets Howard (Goodman), the owner of the house turned bunker, and the man who brought her there. He explains to her that the world outside is in ruins, everyone she knows is gone, and that she won’t be able to leave until the radiation outside has dissipated, in several years. Unsure whether or not he is telling the truth, and genuinely terrified of the unhinged Howard, Michelle, along with fellow survivor Emmett (Gallagher Jr.), contemplates the reality of what she has been told, the real threat of cabin fever, and the possibility that Howard may indeed be lying to them both, that he may have far more sinister intentions in mind.
John Goodman brings a substantial amount of talent to his portrayal of Howard, which is to be expected of the seasoned professional. He plays Howard as a paranoid, unhinged man, clearly traumatised by his past, and the apparent loss of his wife and daughter. Howard, while terrifying, seems multi-layered, and compelling. You question his every action, alongside Michelle and Emmett. Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s Michelle, while fairly bland on her own at times, acting as a gate way for the viewer to feel a part of the experience, still has strong willed moments, and a desire to understand just what has happened to the world outside.
When discussing and making sequels, it’s easy to fall into the trap of repeating the originals formula, and expecting the same, if not greater, level of praise. Take for example The Thing (2011), Ghostbusters II (1989), or The Evil Dead II (1987). Granted, this does not mean they are bad films, or unworthy of viewing, far from it. However, the mark of a phenomenal sequel, is one that takes the characters, world, or themes, and builds upon it, evolving what was originally presented to us, such as Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991), Aliens (1986), Dawn of the Dead (1978), and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989).
The Original Cloverfield presented itself as a found footage, end of mankind, alien invasion film, that while it was successful, and garnered itself a fan base, it’s found footage style turned off quite a few people, myself included. However, the film, even with its failings, set up a world on the verge of becoming a post apocalypse. Acting as the Mad Max (1979) of a potential franchise, Cloverfield works as the starting point for a greater depth of world building. 10 Cloverfield Lane, is a perfect entry to the world Cloverfield sets up. Surprisingly however, 10 Cloverfield Lane did not start off as a sequel to Cloverfield. Originally a script with no connection to the Cloverfield branding, the decision to bring incorporate the world of Cloverfield into this script, brings both its good and bad elements. For those who have experienced Cloverfield, you know exactly what the outside threat is. While for those who avoided the original film, either due to its found footage format, or its alien invasion, end of the world premise, than you are likely to overlook this film. Weather you have seen the original Cloverfield or not, 10 Cloverfield Lane is a fantastically tense and intelligent thriller.