10 Cloverfield Lane

No one even knew the film “10 Cloverfield Lane” existed a month ago. Then the trailer suddenly drops, teasing a connection to the sleeper 2008 hit “Cloverfield,” and film geeks went nuts with speculation. Would it be a sequel? Would it be more found footage? Will there be more monsters? The answer to all of those questions is a resounding “no” and yet “10 Cloverfield Lane” is one of the most effective thrillers in recent years.

The film starts with a girl named Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) breaking up with her fiance and driving away to start a new life. Then out of nowhere, she wrecks her car and finds herself waking up in a bunker, chained up and clueless to her surroundings. Her captor (or is it savior?) is a burly man named Howard (John Goodman) who tells her that he saved her from the car crash and that the world outside is no longer habitable. So they are forced to stay in his bomb shelter with his worker Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.), surviving on the provisions amassed by Howard who has been preparing for such a situation.

And there’s your movie. Three people living in an underground bunker, leaving the audience to figure out what is really happening in their world. Such a simple premise yet an amazing accomplishment for first-time feature film director Dan Trachtenberg who relishes in creating tension and thrills the old-fashioned way, relying on skilled technique and great acting. Seeds in the story are planted here and there. The performances are subtle yet so revealing. The music adds to the eerie atmosphere and then ramps up at the right times.

“10 Cloverfield Lane” is an intense, moody thriller that’ll have you at the edge of your seat, trying to make sense of each incredible WTF moment. Much like the film’s brilliant marketing campaign, the less I tell you of the film the better. Just go watch it and enjoy the ride. Oh, and those looking for the tie-in to the original “Cloverfield” film, it’s not really relevant. Let’s just say that the two films could inhabit the same universe but there is no real connection between the two. But if this the beginning of a film anthology set in the “Cloverfield” universe, bravo. I’m all for it.

originally published in Frolic Hawaii