10 Cloverfield Lane Is One of 2016’s Best Films

Monsters come in many forms.

Much like in 2008, Bad Robot has surprised us with the release of a Cloverfield film, and this time, both the release and the finished product are decidedly more impressive. 10 Cloverfield Lane ditches the POV camera gimmick that seemed so popular a few years ago, and instead goes a more traditional blocking and stage route. As for the release, it was hard enough to sneak a film through production in 2008, and that was before there were smartphones everywhere. The internet has made filming in secrecy much more difficult, so the fact that no one knew about this until the Super Bowl ad aired, is a feat onto itself.

The first Cloverfield film featured a few of my favorite actors before they really hit it big, like Lizzy Caplan, Theo Rossi, and TJ Miller. This new one features an even better cast of already established players. Most notably; the illustrious John Goodman, who gives a stellar performance here, and one in stark contrast to the role that made him famous, television’s Dan Conner. And while Mr. Goodman is the scene stealer, co-stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead and John Gallagher Jr. (The Newsroom) carry the plot along superbly.

The film unfolds a story of three people living in an underground bunker, and a mystery as to what is happening above ground. Goodman plays Howard, the man who owns the bunker, and whom saved Michelle (Winstead) and Emmett (Gallagher) from the horrors outside. The thing is, the viewer is never really sure how genuine the threat outside is, or if Howard is on the level or not. His erratic behavior could be explained away by the paranoia one must feel to construct such a bunker in the first place, but at the same time it could also hint at something darker underneath. The fun of the movie is that you don’t know, and this keeps that ‘edge of your seat’ feeling intact.

10clover dinner

The pacing is steady enough that a movie with a cast of essentially three people never seems slow or tedious, and jukebox soundtrack plays into the uneasiness felt throughout most of the movie, but at the same time adds an air of familiarity. The same song can go from fun and enjoyable to creepy and uncomfortable within the context of a single scene. Goodman seems to feed off of the music as much as anyone, and at times it adds new meaning to some old songs. Perhaps the best movie use of pop music since Guardians of the Galaxy, or going back a little further, Vanilla Sky‘s use of The Beach Boys.

Ultimately any movie that really wants to make a claim at being scary, needs to pay off at the end. Many modern films in the horror and thriller genres have a tendency to scare you throughout, and then end with a whimper – that is not the case here. From start to finish, the film exudes a sense of foreboding, and displays some obvious influences from Alfred Hitchcock. From Bear McCreary‘s score, to the Psycho like font used in the credits, to the tightly-cast character driven suspense; director Dan Trachtenberg’s first feature-length endeavor was a resounding success.

There have been whispers of a possible Oscar nomination for Goodman, but his performance wouldn’t stand out so much if Winstead didn’t come through as a believable lead on her end. Add in what Gallagher delivers in a character that isn’t given a ton to do, and you’ve got a rather impressive ensemble.

10 Cloverfield Lane has been in wide release since March 11. For genre fans, this movie delivers on every level.

Images: Bad Robot, Paramount Pictures

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