By STEVEN ARVANITIS
10 Cloverfield Lane started off as a modest, tightly wound psychological thriller; then due to conflicts with Paramount’s multiple film studios, it was given a connective tissue to the “Cloverfield” franchise; made into a “semi-sequel” of sorts, taking place in the same universe. That led to a intriguingly mysterious marketing campaign, suddenly announced two months before its release, which was built on a foundation of a myriad of crazy fan theories as to how the two films are connected. The film may disappoint those hoping for a more direct connection to the original film; however, what is delivered is a taut, superbly crafted, claustrophobic thriller supported by an impressive cast.
Swiftly setting a chilling mood, Michelle, (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), wakes up to find herself chained to a wall in small, enclosed room, barred from the outside by an intimidating metal door and hooked to an IV. Confused, and worried, as to how she ended up here, she quickly observes her surrounding for any items of use, interrupted by Howard (John Goodman), who tells her she’s been in a car accident, and has been carried to his bunker, as the outside world isn’t safe anymore. Incredulous, she resourcefully thinks of makeshift ways to escape, doubting Howard’s true intentions.
Dan Trachtenberg, making his feature film debut after previously directing a live-action fan made Portal short film, keeps a precise hold over the proceedings that follow, always maintaining a feeling of claustrophobia as the intrigue and anxieties of the film’s characters rise. With form, mood, themes, and sound holding focus over a direct plot, Trachtenberg is able to craft an impressively harrowing thriller. It explores the rich characters presented in the sharply written script with a darkly comic guessing game that showcases Howard’s disturbed, abusive nature. Characterized from the blunt isolation of Michelle to the gratitude he constantly expects from his guests, Howard is a mysteriously dangerous character whose past secrets haunt the characters in an unstable environment that simply replaces the outside world.
The film remains incredibly effective for a good two-thirds of its running time, with no outright connection to Cloverfield in sight it coasts as a deeply unsettling thriller with possible supernatural undertones at play. Without spoiling any major plot points, the final third quickly becomes erratic and jumbled, setting the franchise up further as an anthology of sorts, but loses a semblance of intensity the film has been meticulously building up to.
While it’s ties to the Cloverfield franchise helped with it’s shockingly sudden marketing campaign, it ultimately holds it back, altering the original script of “The Cellar” to fit within a new universe. Regardless of it’s third act stumble, it remains enough of a thematically rich, gripping thriller, supported by an impressive cast and an incredibly promising director, to be worth checking out