Movie Review: “10 Cloverfield Lane”

clover1Once more, dear friends, to “Cloverfield” we go.

Another trip into monster-movie land. Another blast of J.J. Abrams hype. Another movie floated to us in an attempted sea of secrecy.

Does it live up to the brand, the hype, the attempts at hiding what we cannot NOT know about what’s going on?

Nope.

“10 Cloverfield Lane” is, we know from the commercials, a survivors of “the event” of “Cloverfield” tale. They’re holding out in a bunker. Or it’s an abduction picture, with the unutterably gorgeous Mary Elizabeth Winstead (“Smashed,” TV’s “Mercy Street”)  scheming, battling to get out, to escape the clutches of the hulking, menacing and plainly-a-bit-deranged John Goodman.

Is this just a seriously inferior version of “Room”, or a mostly humorless riff on “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” with a fetching hostage yearning to break free? Or did this Howard fellow do her a favor when he plucked her from a road accident and brought him into his lair, buried beneath his rural Louisiana farmhouse?

It turns out that putting “Cloverfield” in the title of your movie, much of the guesswork is gone. And all the armed survivalist Howard’s protests about “ingratitude,” as he endures this or assault or trickery might have a point.

“There is nowhere for you to go.”

clover2

Then again, there are fates worse than what’s been going on on the surface, and there’s no guesswork to those either, as we’ve seen Howard’s explosive tirades, and scores of movies about this sort of creep.

The best the team of screenwriters can come up with here is keeping Michelle (Winstead) in the dark about what’s happened in The World. But since we know, remembering the shaky-cam special that was “Cloverfield,” we don’t fear for what she finds when she gets up there (Nor does she, judging from her lackluster performance).

Aliens invaded — Godzilla monsters, civilization under assault. We remember even if she doesn’t.

Howard’s paranoid refusal to share details (Does he have any?), the lack of media access (Is there any media left?) and the slim bits of corroboration of the OTHER possible hostage/rescued survivor (John Gallagher Jr. of “Short Term 12”) are all Michelle has to go on.

It’s just that Howard’s behavior is creepier and more immediately threatening than anything her imagination could create.

The slim pickings of the script leave long stretches of dull downtime between the few showcase moments of violence. Director Dan Trachtenberg doesn’t compensate for this.

The spectacular car wreck may have you wondering what they put poor Winstead through to get that shot in the can. But seriously, we’ve seen spectacular, in-the-car-camera crashes before. The shaky cam returns for the finale, for those who might have nodded off long before.

What “10 Cloverfield Lane” (And how does that title logically tie-in to the labeled found footage the military had its hand on for “Cloverfield”?) relies on most heavily is performance. And Winstead, a good actress, gives us little suggestion of terror and Goodman leaves little doubt about Howard’s malevolence.

Gallagher? He’s just dull at playing an exceptionally dull character

“10 Cloverfield Lane” is built on the fear of an unknown that we know. Turns out, all that secrecy and hype and branding the “Cloverfield” name were not just this product’s marketing strategy. That’s all they had. Period.

So, “Room” is still in theaters. It’s more harrowing, more terrifying, more thrilling and moving than “Cloverfield Lane” could ever hope to be. And it stars an Oscar winner and reminds us that the scariest things on Earth are actually on Earth. Go see that instead.

1half-star

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for thematic material including frightening sequences of threat with some violence, and brief language

Cast: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Goodman, John Gallagher Jr.
Credits: Directed by Dan Trachtenberg, script byJosh Campbell Matthew StueckenDamien Chazelle . A Paramount release.

Running time: 1:44

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17 Responses to Movie Review: “10 Cloverfield Lane”

  1. Steve Pro says:

    your review: Nope

    • Your comment, “Dope.” Unless you’d care to take issue with some point of contention or other, you’re just a troll.

      • Clovey says:

        From your review:

        ““10 Cloverfield Lane” is, we know from the commercials, a survivors of “the event” of “Cloverfield” tale.”

        This is wrong, very wrong. None (literally none) of the marketing has said this, you have made an educated assumption based purely on the Cloverfield title. In fact, the entirety of your review is in the assumption that in this story that the attack on New York in 2008 even happened. You saw the film, you viewed the marketing, yet nothing in either points to this other than the title of the film. Do me a favor and screen this again while doing either 1 of 2 things.

        1) Do not attempt to make a movie universe connection between 10 Cloverfield Lane and Cloverfield or
        2) Actually go read/listen to J.J. Abrams and Dan Trachtenberg’s interviews where this has constantly been stated as being a “blood relative” and not a “sequel”

        I’m assuming that 2 is a much more viable route since you seem to want to make connections happen.

      • Kubrick used to say, “The film must speak for itself.” So Abrams and Trachtenberg’s walk-backs don’t change the parallel structure that allowed/compelled them to use the “Cloverfield” brand. It’s a flat picture, as either a stand-alone or same-time-frame sequel. Poorly paced, etc. I’d suggest you see “Room” and see how tension/empathy are built in this sort of scenario. Apparently, neither Abrams nor Trachtenberg did.

      • Clovey says:

        Saw “Room” it was great at what it did as well. I’m failing to see the pacing issues with Cloverfield though; I was too engrossed with these characters and the, in my opinion, spot on performances to notice a problem. Each character has such little quirks in their behaviors that create such a huge amount of depth to them in scenes that have little to no dialog.

        If anything there’s so much more mystery involved taking the film at face value than if you were participating in the ARG. For the average movie goer I’m assuming there’s really a lot more questions about these characters than are fully answered in the film. There are a large number of things that we could discuss about this film, but out of common courtesy to your other readers I would rather not discuss things that are spoilers.

        Abrams and Trachtenberg had no walk-backs, from the first trailer announcement it was stated as being a “blood relative.” Yes it wasn’t until recently that things were a confirmed anthology but there was never a defined connection (other than title) to the 2008 film.

      • They’re trying to create surprise by pretending it is something it is not. The movie is the most obvious spoiler alert in recent history. That’s them “walking back” what this is about.
        It’s another monster movie with a bunker hostage twist. Meh.

  2. wollam11 says:

    Your review: You have bad taste.

    • Ah, you saw it? Then feel free to take issue with the points I raise. “Wollam.” Otherwise, you’re just some Amish-bearded dude who thinks stealing my one-line blurb is “clever.”

  3. fellicity says:

    I know you’re probably just happy to have people visiting your little movie blog, but I have to agree with the others. You got this so completely wrong I’m not even sure where to begin. As a critic, you should at least have some interest in being factually correct.

    1) Abrams and Trachtenberg have said from the beginning that this film is a part of a larger Cloverfield anthology – a “blood relative” to the 2008 film, not a direct sequel.

    2) This does not take place after the “event” from the 2008 movie. This takes place in present day Louisiana, not 2008 New York. The film was very clear about that. In fact, one of the few issues I have with 10 Cloverfield Lane is that, while hints and clues were sprinkled throughout the film for the sharp-eyed viewer that tied it thematically to the 2008 film and let us know it was in the same Clover-verse, there was no direct reference to the 2008 kaiju attack. Howard, being a conspiracy nut and prepper, could have easily used that attack as an example of how bad things can get, necessitating a bunker.

    3) “Walking back”…. again, it was made VERY clear that this wasn’t a sequel. As a person who writes about film, I’m surprised you didn’t do any research into this one before critiquing it. The title wasn’t a spoiler. It was half of the reason why the film felt so taut and tense to Cloverfield fans: we were waiting to see where this film fit into the universe. Again – if you’re a fan of the original, you got it (i.e. References to the parent company that may or may not have triggered the kaiju attack in 2008; Slusho!; the 10 Cloverfield Lane ARG). You, clearly, didn’t.

    4) Problems with pacing? Lackluster acting? Long stretches of dullness? I guess if you think shaky cam films = exciting, then sure. I personally found the performances absolutely enthralling, to the point where I realized I was more scared watching what was unfolding in the bunker than I was watching the original Cloverfield monster.

    As an enormous fan of the 2008 movie, I loved every minute of this one – including the last 10. It seamlessly dovetailed into what could shape up to be a wild anthology of stories that operate in different corners of this universe, yet somehow complement each other. I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy it, and you’re certainly entitled to your opinion – but getting mad at others who point out you’re simply factually wrong about the plot of this film does say something about your critiquing abilities. Live and learn?

    • Like the Coens saying “Oh, we NEVER saw the John Wayne movie” about “True Grit” and Abrams’ own specious claims “I don’t even LIKE ‘Star Trek,'” filmmaker spin is directed at selling tickets and making a success or whatever look even more amazing. It’s totally self-serving. But be lemmings if you want. I have interviewed these guys, they talk with their fingers crossed behind their backs. And the movie clearly connects to the original, pretending it doesn’t beggars belief. Don’t be such a sap. “Branding” is Hollywood’s favorite word. Abrams slaps “Cloverfield” on it, that means monsters and mediocre acting.
      And BY THE WAY…releasing an “It’s not a ‘Cloverfield’ ‘monster apocalypse” days after the best actress Oscar is given to the BEST hostage movie ever is otherwise a pretty unhappy accident. Because without the monsters, this is just a grossly inferior “Room” — weaker acting, less tension, less emotional connection/investment.
      It’s a monster movie, a “creature feature,” aliens invade. Etc. I knew it sitting down to watch it, so did you.

  4. Rus McCoy says:

    Your review was very off base. It seems you came into it with preconceived notions and a chip on your shoulder. I give “10 Cloverfield Lane” a solid “B” or 4 out of 5 stars.

  5. Mike says:

    Your review was spot on! There were a few enjoyable moments in the movie, but I left the theater knowing I’d never get back those 2 hours of my life or my ten dollars. I haven’t seen The Room yet, but I will now just to get the Cloverfield taste out of my mouth!

  6. Johnny Jamz says:

    Let me offer a contrary opinion. This movie was incredible, and I sat in awe once the credits rolled. Genre mashing at it’s very best. John Goodman is so unnerving as Howard. At various points in the film you will want to run from him or hide behind him as you ask yourself “what exactly is going on here?” Mary Elizabeth Winstead so amazingly depicts the apprehension of her character, and it’s so interesting to watch her scrutinize her surroundings and analyze her fellow captives as she seeks to understand her situation. The dynamics in the story are simply incredible, alternating believably between tension and release, doubt and belief. I was left at every point of this film wondering just exactly where it would be going next. The transition from the bunker to the outside world would not have been so organic and interesting if not for the fascinating story and wonderfully subtle and engaging performances from the 3 leads. I love how beautifully every payoff in the film is setup in previous scenes. No Deus Ex Machina to be had here. Simply jaw-dropping, bravura filmmaking at its best.

    Let me review the reviewer for just a second. I wish he had something more to mention about Ms. Winsteads performace other than she’s gorgeous and she is lackluster. Just how was that heroic, dynamic and utterly engaging performance lackluster in your eyes. And to describe your distaste for this film in only weak comparisons to other movies is lazy and poor writing. I can tell by your review and the responses to your critics that you are a stupid person, with low self-esteem and you should probably seek another line of work.

    • You haven’t seen Winstead in “Smashed.” Here, she underreacts to her plight, lets us see her trying to hit her marks and telegraphs her exertions. It’s a terrible performance. Goodman has played this very guy multiple times. Yawn.

  7. Mike Rowan says:

    i watched this movie last night based on the high rating on rottentomatoes… i wish i would have read this specific review first. I was extremely bored with this terrible movie. Bored and I guess annoyed by the acting and script. I’m not not a professional movie reviewer… but I do know a good movie when I see it. And this was NO GOOD MOVIE. My other birthday movie choice was Deadpool… wish I could do it over again.

  8. carlosdev says:

    I was disappointed in the movie as well, but mainly over the left turn it takes in the last ten minutes that just didn’t work for me and seemed to be a lame add-on to justify the association with a much better film. I do, however, take a little bit of issue at your constant comparison to Room. The tones are meant to be completely different; one is a thriller, the other a psychologically based drama. In Room, the focus is on the victims whereas here the focus is on the situation. The similarities are only, in my opinion, on the surface in that both films depict people held in confined spaces against their will. It’s a lot like comparing Lost to Gilligan’s Island; both TV shows depict a group of people stranded on a tropical island but the similarities end there, and the two were never meant to be alike.

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