|See this magician. He tells you that it's a white bunny coming out of the hat. But it's a lie!|
If you weren't some lactose intolerant pussy with motion sickness issues, or one of those most unfortunate souls who could never play Ecco the Dolphin because of epileptic seizures, then you might have enjoyed 2008's Cloverfield. It was a cool change of perspective on the monster genre with its handheld shaky cam effects, and clever marketing campaign. The mythology of it (what little they showed us) was interesting and they didn't oversell the monster. After many repeated viewings, that scene with Lizzy Caplan's (Masters of Sex) abdomen bursting is still shocking. Question; Do people with epilepsy get affected by shaky cam, or is it just from the colorfully bright lights? Whatever, I already wrote it so it must be true. Even though Cloverfield's ending was left open ("It's still alive!"), I never thought much about a sequel to it. The movie itself stood well on its own. Besides, the "lost footage" thing has been done to death with little improvement to be seen.
I, like many others, was surprised to hear about the supposed sequel, 10 Cloverfield Lane, only a couple of months before its release. Well done Bad Robot (production company). From the trailers, you knew that it was something different; No shaky cam, an ominous story, and John Goodman (The Babe) chewing the scenery. Executive producer J.J. Abrams (Super 8) & Company, have done it again! But not what you nor I were expecting. They had us so hyped on the film's title, that all we could see was the illusion (or lies). Aside from a couple of minor nods, this film is in no way a sequel connecting us to the events of the original. It's in name only. You know, like with Halloween III: Season of the Witch, Godzilla 1998, or the book to script differences for World War Z (Nerd Alert! The book was better). I don't know whether to stand up and clap in respect, or to send J.J. a passive aggressive e-mail. I am of course disappointed, yet I'm not pissed off. This is a good movie. Think of it as an old Twilight Zone episode modernized and blended with Misery (1990), with a "I'll save it for the end of the review" rip off ending. Set almost entirely in a customed underground bomb shelter, the feeling of claustrophobia is constantly at the forefront on that regard. What's also lurking in every scene, is the overwhelming feeling of tension and danger. First time director Dan Trachtenberg (The Totally Rad Show video podcast) has shown great promise with a low budget, and a small cast. It uses the rule of simple; You keep the story basic, and you let the characters spruce things up.
With only four actors and a voice (Bradley Cooper, The A-Team 2010), everyone gets their moments to perform. Well, Suzanne Cryer (Silicon Valley) is only in one scene but hey, that means more for everybody else. Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Live Free or Die Hard) plays a curious character; For the entire film, she's in survival mode. Whether she's running away from her future commitment to her fiance (Cooper) or smacking Goodman in the head with a beer bottle, she's always planning her escape. She is another addition to Hollywood's current transition of turning weak female victims into capable survivors. John Goodman has one of his best performances in years. Instead of giving him some limited charismatic clips like in The Hangover Part III and The Gambler 2015, Goodman gets to occupy an entire film for the betterment of all involved. He's got this Michael Moore (Fahranheit 9/11) thing going on that ups the creepy factor by ten. His unstable character keeps you on your toes throughout. What's great about his role, is that even when he starts to seem nice and relatable, he says or does something odd that instantly triggers your Spidey-sense. John Gallagher Jr. (The Newsroom), plays an innocently optimistic country boy that I never really connected to. I couldn't tell if he was hiding something, or just stupid. His acting is fine, but a different actor might have grabbed my interest better. I wish I could comment on the film's score by Bear McCreary (The Walking Dead), but I was so wrapped up in the character drama that I never even noticed it. Is that good or bad? You tell me.
The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, of 10 Cloverfield Lane
The Good- Both escape attempts, the acid barrel, "HELP ME", Goodman's obvious hygienic improvements, and never interrupt Goodman when he's watching Pretty in Pink.
The Bad- ***SPOILER ALERT!!!*** Although tense and well done with the F/X and camera work, the ending is a blatant rip off of the farm scene from War of the Worlds (2005). It's even more obvious if you compare Goodman's character to Tim Robbins' (Mystic River) from that film. ***END OF SPOILER ALERT!!!*** Maybe.
The Ugly- This film is based off of a 2012 spec script called, The Cellar. It was grabbed up and modified to connect to the Cloverfield universe. I'm still trying to figure that one out.
10 Cloverfield Lane is worth seeing as long as you didn't have your hopes up for the return of the Cloverfield monster baby or a paraplegic version of Hud (T.J. Miller, Deadpool). Cut out the false advertising and W.O.T.W. crap, and you have an uncomfortably good psychological drama. When the next film in their planned anthology comes out, just expect nothing remotely connected and with some kind of vampire or Loch Ness monster twist ending to give you the finger, and you'll be fine. There's nothing after the end credits, so get into your car as quickly as possible and scream while punching the ceiling. I didn't do that, but I kinda wanted to.
Rating- 7.5 out of 10 (4 out of 10 if the lies jerk with your emotions)