Sequel takes different turn
The low-budget, expertly marketed creature feature Cloverfield was a pleasant surprise upon its 2008 release.
Combining the then still fairly fresh found-footage shooting formula with a Godzilla-like monster smashing its way through New York City, it scored big with both critics and cinemagoers.
Sequel talk, initially rampant, died down a little in recent years but finally, with very little fanfare, it’s time for a Cloverfield return – sort of.
Don’t go expecting another colossal creature stomping buildings and swatting at helicopters, though; 10 Cloverfield Lane is an altogether different beast.
Mary Elizabeth Winstead stars as Michelle, a woman who gets into a car accident and awakens to find herself trapped in an underground bunker with Howard (John Goodman) and Emmett (John Gallagher Jr), who claim the outside world has been hit by a chemical attack.
JJ Abrams again produces but the original’s Matt Reeves has been replaced by Dan Trachtenberg – making his big screen debut – in the director’s chair.
Abrams himself has described 10 Cloverfield Lane as a “blood relative” of its predecessor – but even that’s being kind. Gone are the citywide set pieces – replaced by a predominantly single, small location.
But Josh Campbell, Matthew Stuecken and Damien Chazelle’s screenplay is an exercise in claustrophobic tension as Michelle tries to get to the bottom of her captors’ motivations.
Every bit as scary as the first film’s monster is Goodman’s paranoid, scruffy prophet of doom. This is the ex-Roseanne star’s best, most wellrounded character in years, and he rises to the challenge with great aplomb.
Winstead – no stranger to suspenseful roles – is terrific too and Gallagher Jr doesn’t fold among his better known co-stars, injecting Emmett with blind loyalty and a fear of the unknown.
Trachtenberg embraces the sequel’s switch from blockbusting-style action and rollercoaster ride film-making to near fullblown horror and mystery worthy of The Twilight Zone.
He teases Michelle with a literal window of opportunity – a view to the outside world through a door at the top of a dark staircase – but any kind of salvation would have to be reached by stepping over the two dead, bloody pigs lying on the other side.
To say a lot more about the plot and where the writers take us would be giving too much away. One thing 10 Cloverfield Lane has in common with the first movie is that it’s best viewed avoiding spoilers.
There are surprises to revel in but a more taught, tight edit would have improved things as the pace slows dramatically more than once.
Cloverfield 2 in nearname only this follow-up may be, but it’s no less intriguing and enjoyable for it.
Danger zone (L-R) Gallagher Jr, Winstead and Goodman