Bad Robot, Great Hitchcock
In 2007 producer J.J. Abrams and his production company Bad Robot surprised everyone with a trailer for an up to that point unannounced movie. It was so mysterious the title wasn’t even announced initially, only the release date of 01-18-08 was given. The trailer was an instant sensation and the shot of lady liberty’s head being slung into a street full of debris soon became as iconic as the ‘Escape from New York’-poster it was referencing. When the actual movie by director Matt Reeves was released, it did not live up to the hype it built for itself. Although enjoyable, ‘Cloverfield‘ turned out to be more of a lesson in ingenious marketing than an example of great filmmaking.
At the start of 2016, Abrams successfully managed to repeat the concept of the surprise movie with the trailer for ’10 Cloverfield Lane’. Again no one knew it was being made, and again the trailer hardly gave away a thing. This guaranteed an instant buzz: Is it a sequel? A spin-off? A prequel? A reboot? Or something else entirely? Just weeks before the release Abrams explained he wants Cloverfield to be a general name for a line of monster movies. Kind of what ‘The Twilight Zone’ was for horror, or if you take it back even further what ‘Alfred Hitchcock Presents’ was for the suspense genre. It’s a great idea, but the underlying question was: is Abrams speaking the truth or is he deliberately giving us misinformation? Now that this sort of spin-off is here, it turns out there is hardly a connection between the two movies. However ‘10 Cloverfield Lane‘ justifies the hype and more than makes up for the unfulfilled expectations of ‘Cloverfield’, as this masterclass in suspense is a much better film in each and every way.
The less you know about the story going in, the better. Mary Elizabeth Winstead stars as Michelle, a young woman who blacks out after a car accident and wakes up in an underground shelter that belongs to Howard (John Goodman). She reckons he kidnapped her, but the old man assures he saved her from an imminent monster attack. The only other person in the basement is Emmett (John Gallagher Jr), and for audience as well as Michelle it is hard to decide whether he is on her side or not. Michelle doesn’t trust it one bit and tries to escape.
Winstead is fully convincing and as an audience you feel her pain all the way. Goodman is always great but really steals the show here. It soon becomes clear he’s seriously messed up, but for most of the movie the question is whether he’s a dangerous psychopath or an over-caring survivalist, and the Hollywood heavyweight keeps you guessing for as long as possible. He hasn’t displayed such a captivating combination of comedy and rage since his iconic role as Walter Sobchak in ‘The Big Lebowski’.
Writers Matthew Stuecken and Josh Campbell have crafted an old-fashioned suspense story in the best Hitchcock-tradition and director Dan Trachtenberg delivers an amazing debut film. After Deadpool’s Tim Miller he is already the second filmmaker this year that arrives on the scene with a knock-out debut.
’10 Cloverfield Lane’ will not be for everybody as it is very intense, unnerving and unbearably suspenseful. If you are claustrophobic or if you have a heart condition, this movie is not for you. If you expect big monster action you may also end up disappointed. However, if you are ready for one of the most suspenseful movies of recent years, then you are in for one hell of a ride.