Monsters are real…
The events of 10 Cloverfield Lane run concurrent to those of its 2008 predecessor Cloverfield, but unlike its predecessor it ditches the shaky cam, found footage style that worked so well the first time around. It’s a sensible choice. 10 Cloverfield Lane is a different beast, and its beast is of an entirely different nature as well. If shows like The Walking Dead have taught us anything, it’s that humans can be the scariest monsters of all. Enter, John Goodman.
At best, Goodman’s Howard is misunderstood. But to call him so would be more than a little generous. At worst, he’s a terrifying, bruising, all consuming presence over the film and the inhabitants of the world. Yet he also has traits which run counterintuitively to the more unnerving aspects of his character. Moments of softness. Moments of fatherliness. He’s a complex person, embodied incredibly by Goodman who fills the claustrophobic screen space with his presence throughout. Had it been released a couple of months earlier its likely that Goodman would have found himself in contention for more than a few awards. As it is, it’ll be interesting to see if he can stake a claim for himself come 2017’s awards season.
As the end of the world as we know it unravels – much as Howard had predicted – he “rescues” Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s Michelle and John Gallagher Jr.’s Emmett, taking them into his underground bunker. It’s an act of misconceived kindness and one doomed to have repercussions for both him and his guests. Winstead’s Michelle is engaging and resourceful company to keep as we discover the insular, enclosed world of 10 Cloverfield Lane’s bunker along with her. From the outset the camera aligns us with Michelle, following her every move, with tight framing limiting the space around her, before the bunker and Howard physically trap her further. It’s uncomfortable, intense, and spectacularly gripping.
Claustrophobia really is the key here. This is a small-scale, tightly constructed piece – a feat made all the more impressive knowing that it came from a first time director in Dan Trachtenberg. Bear McCreary’s thumping score, the incessant humming of the bunker’s air filtration system, the bangs and scrapings from beyond the walls of confinement, Goodman’s looming figure – it all works in unison to create an irresistible sense of cabin fever. It’s refined, compelling, streamlined storytelling at its very best, set to the backdrop of a fight happening on a wholly different scale in the outside world as we saw in Cloverfield.
If the world does end, let it be known that I’d rather go down fighting than sit it out in the “comfort” of Howard’s bunker.
Rating (out of 5):