10 Cloverfield Lane review monster ‘sequel’ is more Hitchcock than Xbox

Unlike the found-footage twist of the horror film it takes its name from, this clever thriller packs no tricks but tremendous tension into John Goodmans survivalist bunker

The huge metal latch to the door that keeps Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) imprisoned must be dented or something. Every time Howard (John Goodman) yanks on it theres a squeak that sounds like a terrified cry for help. There are creepy things happening all over 10 Cloverfield Lane.

Cloverfield, the 2008 first-person action/horror/sci-fi goof from JJ Abramss production outfit Bad Robot, is one of the better examples of the found-footage genre. Its kineticism racing across bridges shouting Oh my Goddddd! is nowhere to be found in this sequel. This is a one-location pressure cooker, influenced more by Hitchcock than an Xbox. Three characters in a bunker, no one knows who to trust, especially not us in the audience.

Uh, did I call this a sequel? A little poking around shows that 10 Cloverfield Lane, originally called The Cellar, was shot and edited before anyone had the idea to change the title and make it part of a known intellectual property. (That is, of course, assuming that you buy the current story Bad Robot is selling. Maybe their were marketing geniuses transparency is just more marketing?) Whether or not this is a bellwether for force-fed franchises to come or a wiseacre one-off is up for debate. What matters here is that this movie, whatever you want to call it, is really good.

Watch the trailer for 10 Cloverfield Lane

Mary Elizabeth Winsteads Michelle, strong, smart and determined, hops in her car to get a little distance from her boyfriend. The radio makes mention of some sort of power outage. Next thing she knows shes sideswiped, sent over a railing (plunging through some breathtaking title cards) and wakes up in a concrete room with an IV in her arm.

Howard, edgy and short-tempered, helped her out of her wreck and is nursing her back to health. Hes long been a survivalist nut and, according to him, theres been some sort of attack. The air is poisoned and to leave the bunker (which, other than Michelles room, is decorated quite nicely) means certain death. Is he holding her against her will? Yes. But is he telling the truth? That one is harder to answer.

Adding to the mix is Emmett (John Gallagher Jr) a local contractor who raced to Howards bunker when he saw a flash like out of the Bible. Hes got a busted arm, which he claims he got when trying to get in the shelter, and Michelle wants to believe him. But she can tell that Howard isnt telling the whole truth. If only she could step out the double-doors for a moment, but there are those two dead pigs exposed to the air that look as if their skin boiled off.

The bunker isnt that bad Mary Elizabeth Winstead. Photograph: Michele K Short/AP

10 Cloverfield Lane does a spectacular job of capturing nightmare logic. You sense danger even if you cant explain it. Howard is a saviour but also a menace; we want Michelle to outfox him, but we know that if he catches her shell make it 10 times worse. And besides, maybe this madman is telling the truth? Where is she going to go? The bunker isnt that bad. Theres loads of books and a jukebox and plenty of food. Whats a year or so down there?

All three actors are tremendous, and director Dan Trachtenberg, making his feature debut, must be commended for keeping things tightly focused. Individual scenes play-out almost like filmcraft exercises: she sees the keychain, she concocts a plan to get the keychain, she executes, but doesnt anticipate something, and counter-acts. The only moments of levity are balanced by more tension. There are no ostentatious camera gimmicks. The material is good enough to play it all straight.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/film/2016/mar/10/10-cloverfield-lane-review-monster-sequel-john-goodman-mary-elizabeth-winstead