Friday, 25 March 2016

10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)

After a car crash, Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) wakes up to find herself in an underground bunker where her captor, Howard (John Goodman), tells her that there has been some kind of presumed chemical/nuclear attack that has made the surface uninhabitable. Obviously, trust isn't high and Michelle bides her time to plot an escape.

It has been 8 years or so since 'Cloverfield' snuck its way into cinemas and made a decent wad of cash. You'd have thought that, like other 'found-footage' films from the past few years, they would fast-track a sequel. Yet I don't recall that happening and, suddenly, we get this film which uses the 'Cloverfield' name and has some kind of connection but is, otherwise, a completely different proposition.

Instead of being about a bunch of vapid, uninteresting teens whining their way through dark tunnels with shoddy cameras, we have a trio of people in a bunker in the countryside where the focus is more on what's going on in there rather than the happenings on the outside. Plus it's all filmed and lit in a manner where you can stay engaged with what's going on. If anything, the use of 'Cloverfield' is irrelevant as the film would have worked fine on its own. Perhaps even better as the more 'Cloverfield'-ish elements bring it down.

But moving on from the 'Cloverfield' stuff. This film, when it comes down to it, is a horror/thriller (depending on how you see it - it's hard to discern the two, though this has elements of both) set in a confined setting. It builds itself around the central character's paranoia/suspicions as, understandably, things do look very dodgy. And, to the film's credit, it does a pretty good job with the tension and general uneasiness.

The audience knows about as much of the situation as Winstead's Michelle, so we find things out as she does. Fairly standard but done in a effective way. Winstead is likeable screen presence so that helps (you want to see her make it to the end in one piece - which is necessary for the final few minutes to have any impact). However, she is up against a very creepy John Goodman for most of the film and he creates a very uneasy atmosphere, amplified by the confined setting, uncertainty about what's going on outside the setting, and restrained film-making (it doesn't feel rushed, shrill, and so on for the most part).

I'm trying to be restrained myself with all this. I'd rather not just give away things play out in this film (a lot of what you see in the trailers happens early on). But even if you can work out where things are going (which isn't hard), It's done skillfully and intelligently enough to make an impact. It's a good, unnerving watch.

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