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10 Cloverfield Lane - The Riles Review

Updated on March 13, 2016

The first Cloverfield was one of the pioneering shaky cam flicks to come out(the first and greatest being The Blair Witch Project). The scale was huge, it was intense and because it’s an alien, they got away with a whole lot of scary, unexplainable shit on screen. Now there’s 10 Cloverfield Lane, with separate characters and settings, but scaled way down to a creepy nuclear shelter, making for one of the most intense movies of recent memory.

The film opens with Michelle(Mary Elizabeth Winstead) fleeing home and a strained relationship. Late that night her car is run off of the road, and Howard(John Goodman) saves her life, bringing her to his new home in a nuclear shelter on his property. As she spends time in the bunker with Howard, and fellow survivor Emmet(John Gallagher Jr.), she discovers that there may be just as much going on underneath the surface as there is outside in the world that they’re taking shelter from.

To air out one of my only complaints about the film, I sincerely wish that they didn’t call it '10 Cloverfield Lane.' Having such a strong suggestion and connection to the 2008 flick sort of kills some mystery. For a contrasting note, one of the few things(very few, trust me.) that The Happening had going for it was that you didn’t know what was making everyone kill themselves until some strangely well-informed hippie leaned in to Marky Mark and said, “maybe it’s the trees”. Up until that point, you still had mystery. The title tells you literally nothing, only that an event occurs, which seems par for the course in a movie. However with 10 Cloverfield lane, you’ve already made a direct link to the 2008 movie, so even as the bunker buddies throw around their theories, you already know what’s going on up on the surface.

But regardless, even with that knowledge, the movie is playing out underground, and that knowledge serves to let you know how crazy or dumb their theories might be, so it reinforces the notion of how isolated and unaware they are. So whether you’re a well-informed cinema fiend or not, this movie is still one of the scariest and well-constructed movies of 2016 thus far. The plot ratchets up the intensity in a perfect progression. Just when it looks like it’s all about done, it suddenly goes balls to the wall. It seamlessly shifts from this intense isolation thriller into a whole new genre, in such a near-perfect way, close to the perfection that was From Dusk Till Dawn. Just when you think you’ve got an idea of where it’s going, it slams on the hand brake and takes you in a different direction.

"Emptying the toilet silo is EVERYONE'S responsibility."
"Emptying the toilet silo is EVERYONE'S responsibility." | Source

The bunker is audaciously creepy, as I imagine most underground nuclear shelters are. And while there seems to be plenty of room for the survivors to run about, and plenty to keep them from getting bored, you can still feel that they’re buried down there, and they have no corners they can really hide in. The lighting and set design really reflect this quite well, and the sense of time progressing is just as foggy as you would expect for people living underground. Not that it moves along without focus, but it keeps you invested in the single setting.

The trio that plough the film along are all tremendous. John Goodman is working on so many different levels. As the ex-navy owner of the bunker in which he plays leader, and when it calls, is menacing and imposing to the utmost degree. But he still imbues the character with such vulnerability that you can’t help but empathise with him. The deeper psychology attached to his character runs deep in the script, and is perfect when it is spoken and unspoken in scenes. He is one of the most wholistic and depth-driven characters on screen in the past couple of years.
John Gallagher Jr is near perfect as the nice guy in the bunker. He is genuinely funny and sweet all the way through. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is the least-developed of the trio, but still makes for a badass heroine, more than deserving to be in the same category as Ripley in the Alien Franchise. She’s got three dimensions to her character, but you never really understand what she was running away from right at the start of the film. But when the defecation hits the oscillation, she steps up to the plate as both a strong, solid protagonist and a truly human character, just as scared and confused as the rest of them.

10 Cloverfield Lane is one of the best genre films I’ve seen in a fair while. At more than one occasion, a bit of wee came out because it can be godlessly scary when it wants to. Towards the end of the film the momentum builds to a boiling point, and then it goes up some more, and then some more after that. It’s an intense film that I could not laud enough.



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