I may be slighlty biased because I was born in midst the 1980s, but I see it as a time of significance for the arts – The height of excess and post-modernist exploration, combining disparate ideas together seamlessly and sometimes garrishly. If you need a good example, this is often best interpreted in the tradition of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, at least for me.
Probably because I enjoyed it quite heavily as a little boy.
Now, what this has to do with today’s movie review is less obvious, but I’ll give you a hint – the unofficial theme song for this movie was popular in the 1960s, and again in the 1980s, it was featured in the film trailer, at the turn of the plot, and is also one of my heart songs. Conspiracy? I think not.
10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)
Cast: John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Gallagher Jr.
Director: Dan Trachtenberg
released on blu-ray June 14, 2016
Rotten Tomatoes: 90%, Audience Score 81%
The Guardian: ****/*****
Dan Trachtenberg is an American filmmaker who has also co-hosted a podcast called The Totally Rad Show and another podcast called Geekdrome in previous efforts, both of which were on the Revision3 network. When it comes to directing, Trachtenberg has been involved in a couple of large scale directing roles now, one being Black Mirror, which was made for televsion, and very recently the film 10 Cloverfield Lane.
But don’t let the rap sheet fool you. He has spent a fair amount of time behind the camera already, directing commercials for Lexus, Nike, and Coca Cola, AND he has directed a short film as well as an internet show.
As something of self-proclaimed pop culture expert, Trachtenberg is just one of many examples of young directors being given the helm for big movie projects, and I had to wonder if this trend is incredibly smart or incredibly reckless. Only time will tell, but in the case of 10 Cloverfield Lane the gamble seems to have paid off.
Without going to too great of detail, the story follows Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) as she is in the midst of leaving her fiance Ben (Bradley Cooper). In the rush to leave their home she leaves quite a few things behind. At one point while travelling, Ben attempts to contact Michelle, to which she reluctantly answers the phone, but does not speak.
Just as Ben is in the midst of calling a second time, Michelle is hit by a truck and taken off of the road. She wakes up in an underground bunker, chained to the wall and plugged into an IV, with several wounds and a sprained leg. Unfortunately there is no reception and she while she does struggle to escape, she is unsuccessful.
Eventually someone opens the door and we are introduced to Howard (John Goodman), who built the bunker and claims to have saved Michelle from an apocalyptic event. Despite her pleas to be let go, and at least 2 attempts to escape, Michelle eventually realizes that something has happened above Howards farm. Emmett has also stolen sanctuary in Howards bunker and as the story unravels we slowly learn that this is not a typical thriller or horror movie, and it dances the antagonist between roles of villain and anti-hero rather liberally.
If I were to explain too much more, it would absolutely ruin the movie, so I will say this. If Trachtenberg can make a song from the 1980s both humourous and intensely creepy, then franchise films have a bright future.
Pros: John Goodman owns this role and makes the movie fascinating and terrifying simultaneously. If not for his characterization of a conspiracy theorist proven right, it wouldn’t have the same level of atmosphere.
Cons: The ending is definitely tacked on, and of course, serviceable to it’s predecssor. Which is kind of disappointing, because we all had something different in mind as we got to the final act.
Runtime: 1 hour 44 minutes.
Points of Interest: Mary Elizabeth Winstead was the first and only choice for Michelle. John Goodman is seen watching Pretty In Pink at one point in the film, and Molly Ringwald’s character also had seamstress aspirations. The cast members weren’t told the title of the movie during production, to help keep the secret.
I know I listed it as a con, but I feel very strongly that I should clarify that the while the ending is somewhat disappointing, upon a subsequent viewing, I think the studio decision to do what they did actually helps with the ambiguity of John Goodman’s Howard. And also I was pretty much on the edge of my seat the whole time, so that should say something at the very least.
Okay, I think we’re alone now – So I’ll fill you in as to why I really enjoyed this movie. It features all of the intimacy and practical effect gloss of a 1980s horror movie, but with the proper sensitivities of a contemporary self-aware thriller. If want to be surprised this year, watch 10 Cloverfield Lane. Otherwise, I’m out of theories for now.