Years before it got announced as a surprise, we weren’t really expecting a sequel/spin-off to Cloverfield any time soon even if we wanted such to come into fruition. But nonetheless ,since J.J. Abrams and co. are so grateful for the surprising success of the 2008 found-footage sensation, they deliver to us yet another Cloverfield movie in 10 Cloverfield Lane.
In the film, after getting in a car accident, a woman is held in a shelter with two men, who claim the outside world is affected by a widespread chemical attack.
10 Cloverfield Lane exactly tries to classify itself as a movie that doesn’t want to be distinguished as a spin-off to Cloverfield. It is very able in standing alone, yet it falls into its own traps that is formed by a temptation to knock it out of the park further. But still, its sheer effortlessness in being intense is made prominent with its characters rather than the intrigue that it wants us to dig into. This comes out as a strength rather than a weakness for the focus that it gives to them allows for a progression in the tension as time passes by. In every second that passes, a layer of intensity and emotional distress gets created. Nonetheless, the thrills that it concocted didn’t feel like they were trying, but then again it works on a certain degree for being so simple yet efficient. That is all because its simplicity is what made it run so well up until it loses steam, but thankfully at the right time. By any means necessary, this so-called “blood-relative” to Cloverfield wants us to believe that it tells its story in a different manner unlike its predecessor. It achieves that and more by being an entirely different spin-off almost completely unrecognizable as a part of this soon-to-be franchise.
A different method for the narrative to run deep gets applied, and in the process, a uniquely executed thriller gets molded. What makes it perhaps effectively thrilling is its sense of minimalism wherein the suspense gets built on paranoia, suspicion and helplessness. Those elements integrated into its narrative may sound plain and cliche for a thriller, but how it managed to make them work through simplicity and effortlessness is quite amazing if you were to realize it. The film finds us enclosed in this room, trembling and terrified for what’s about to come. If you just try to come to think of it, you would really be stunned to find out that a scene involving the characters playing charades would truly make you shake in your seat. It won’t be long before you find out that you feel the same fear that runs in the veins of these people.The trio of a cast were all outstanding, but the one person that was such a big deal in making us tremble would be John Goodman. His performance is downright demented, and how he conveys this certain sense of unpredictability in his character is very consistent. All throughout the film, you wouldn’t know if he’s the right person to trust, and all of the terror gets formed from that exact aspect.
Coming in close to Goodman is Mary Elizabeth Winstead who shows naturalism in depicting the terror that she feels. Hers is simply fluent, and you can easily figure out how afraid she is just by reading her facial expressions. She never overreacted at any point whatsoever, and almost made us feel connected to her with the feelings of dreadfulness that she brings out. Their characterization is given depth and for that, the movie becomes totally admirable since it actually cared to do just that amidst the production of simplified, dialogue-driven terror. The time spent in the bunker is evidently better than the time the film spends outside of it. In it, various moments of intensity are manufactured from these characters, and heightened, heated dialogue gets proliferated as the tension escalates. Dan Trachtenberg’s direction is different, yet vastly superior to that of Matt Reeves’ in Cloverfield. This film’s first half already knocks down Cloverfield in so many ways imaginable. His vision is bent entirely on the humans than the monsters, and that’s what essentially trumps down Reeves’ found-footage thriller.
Right from the beginning, you get fed with intrigue and from there, you are forced to find out how things will go, but for a very good reason non-related to predictability. However, there comes a point in the film wherein the destination its direction wanted to go becomes different from what it tried to suggest. From there, we get the notion that it tries to do that in order to justify its title, but from witnessing how showy it is, we come to the realization that it could’ve been a little subtler. Why? Its eagerness in showing us what they “fear” only lessens the extremities of the vagueness that it tried to build in the first place. But how it started out is also how it should have ended; thoroughly nerve-wracking. Instead, it gets a bit into its blockbuster side and goes all out by showing us what it’s been hiding all this time. It turns out that answering the questions that it wanted us to figure out is a bit of a wrong move. As a result, it gets to do what it wanted to but leaves us with the face of “slight” disappointment. It isn’t rendered as useless nor out-of-place whatsoever, but you get the point. It could’ve easily been improved just by looking at how it all plays out in the end. Nonetheless, the twist that arrives is still good and acceptable, but at the same time it really is also quite disappointing. The latter is as true as the former, but thankfully it still found ways to make itself still intense but only on a lower level.
What you get is what you wanted, knowing that it is a Cloverfield film, yet you could’ve only wished for the film to come up with better ways to make the “twist” leave an impact. But still, 10 Cloverfield Lane is a Cloverfield movie, but only by name until the rather mediocre twist ending gets slapped to our faces to make us try to reminisce about the “impact” that the 2008 sensation left. But still, even if the ending was a little of a let-down, the hard-edged emotional impact that it left on us prior to that point in the film couldn’t ever be replaced. The moment it locks us in to electrify with tension is so immense that the disappointing twist is quite easily forgivable. Looking at the film’s title, you’ll be looking for aliens and monsters, but at the end of the day, you’ll be amazed because what you’re looking for is replaced by something better. It’s a deal that it makes with its viewers, and it is such a sweet deal that you get so satisfied by it. 10 Cloverfield Lane is an exceptional thriller but with the unwise decisions that it made in the end, you would have just wanted the intrigue to keep on going since it served as a huge factor to draw us into this atmospherically tense game of suspicion.
* 10 Cloverfield Lane is now showing in Philippine cinemas from United International Pictures Philippines. Rated R-13 by the MTRCB.