For the first time in years, I clapped at the end of the movie.
I sat there, grin as wide as can be, saying out loud to myself, “Wow this was a great movie.”
It was like I was in a state of disbelief. I’d heard the hype leading into the movie an read some intensive reivews on why the film didn’t work for some.
After the film’s surprise announcement in January, I felt like all bets were off on how the film would cater to my sensibilities.
When I arrived at the theatre, I thought I would go in and pick my middle seat, and maybe have a good time. Worst case scenario, the film bores me and I put it on my list of overhyped movies, such as last year’s horror “sensation” It Follows.
Sometimes films are meant to just be enjoyed and that is all. Not every film needs to be a work of art and 10 Cloverfield Lane looked like the kind of disposable entertainment the early months of the year were known for.
However, 10 Cloverfield Lane isn’t disposable entertainment. It’s a force to be reckon with.
From the taunt opening 5 minutes to the sublime yet insane secretive third act, which I will not cover in an effort to avoid spoilers, 10 Cloverfield Lane is one of the best horror films (yes I’m labeling this a horror film, it’s not the wall to wall thrill ride of it’s loose predecessor), to come out in along time.
The plot is simple: A woman escaping her past is saved from what could be the end of the world and brought down to an doomsday bunker by a mysterious man. There she meets another survivor and tries to uncover what’s really happening. That’s all you need to know about the plot.
Dan Trachtenberg makes his feature film debut here and he directs the hell out every scene. It’s truly inspiring to see a director that not only gets what works and what doesn’t work about a “simple” plot such as this, but to see that he gets his audience.
For the past couple of years, critically acclaimed films, such as It Follows, Crimson Peak, and most recently, The Witch, aimed to horrify and excite audiences. The end result? Many of general audience members were left cold and perplexed by the hype.
I, for one, understand why they were so distraught.
When you have a film such as The Witch, that’s clearly based on Ingmar Bergman’s work (he’s a phenomenal director that made challenging films in the 1940’s-2003 that are still appreciated by cinephiles) and other non-mainstream filmmakers, most audiences members are not going to get what you are selling.
Thankfully, Trachtenberg knows exactly what he’s selling. A non-pretentious and wonderfully constructed horror film that will entertain many people for years to come.
But why is it so wonderfully constructed? The first thing that comes to mind is the casting.
Mary Elizabeth Winstead leads the film with confidence and although her character is under-written, she fills in all the blanks of her character through superb body language especially in the first 5 minutes
John Gallagher Jr. is one of the most underrated actors working today. He impressed the hell out of me in Short Term 12, but it made me sad when I didn’t see him in more big things.
Thankfully, he’s one of the main ingredients here, and gave a performance so full of sympathy and regret, that I wouldn’t mind seeing a short film based on his character before the events that happened in the film.
Although Mary and Gallagher Jr gave great performances and elevated the film, John Goodman deserves a round of applause for a performance that blew me away and made me squirm in my seat.
For years I’ve watched and enjoyed his work, but I’ve never truly studied him as an actor. From the get go, John not only tears down all those preconceived notions of him we all have, and gives you something truly unexpected.
Deep down, I think we all know what kind of character Goodman was playing even before the movie started, but the way he played him is what made it all so beautiful. His voice here almost trembles with every word he speaks and his tantrums are both savage yet subtle.
Every scene he’s in, we believe he’s only doing what he feels is best…no matter the consequence.
I was on his side for about a split second before I came to my senses because I felt he wanted to do the “right” thing. And that’s the making of a truly wonderful antagonist.
I can’t close out this review without mentioning what gives this film a true advantage over most films that come out these days…An amazing score.
Bear McCreary’s score for this film is the best since The Hateful Eight and plays like a mix of Hans Zimmer and John Williams.
The score is used right away to great effect and enhances all the visual intensity with lovely results. It’s the kind of score I miss in films and thankfully it isn’t like the overbearing There Will Be Blood influenced score of It Follows, which isn’t a bad thing but I think a score should enhance your film, not distract us from the film.
I know it seems like I’m bashing on current art house horror films, but the fact of the matter is, I feel like horror bloggers and critics alike (even though it has a high and worthy Rotten Tomatoes score of 90 percent), still aren’t giving this enough credit.
I feel like this has the makings of a new classic, more so than The Witch.
Dan Trachtenberg’s direction here is some of the most assured I’ve ever seen from a first time feature film director.
He not only made a film that succeeds it’s barely associated predecessor, Cloverfield, but made something that can appeal to a wide audience without getting bogged down with over indulgences.
Another thing he could’ve done is shoot this whole film hand held in a misguided attempt to make the film more “intense”, but he’s too smart for that. Every frame, every action, and every use of score is brimming with confidence.
Even if you aren’t as impressed with 10 Cloverfield Lane as I was, you will undoubtedly be on the edge of your seat at least once. I guarantee it.
★★★★ One of the best horror films in years that will entertain you and keep you on the edge of your seat.
All images via Paramount Pictures