“10 Cloverfield Lane” would’ve been better served had it been colder and creepier. Instead, just as it started to gain its abduction mojo, it blatantly changes course and loses its sinister rhythm.
– Patrick King, REEL BRIEF
I’ve enjoyed my share of horror films over the years. The exceptional ones, like 2007’s “1408”, bring a certain freakishness to the screen that’s difficult to accomplish. Already nervous viewers are a hard bunch to get even more jumpy and squeamish. Directors and producers must try new ways to shock us with fear. Most of the time, it all starts with suspenseful music until someone either opens a creaky door or peers into that darkened bedroom closet. In this second saga from the “Cloverfield” (2008) collection comes a hodgepodge of twists and turns that never comes full circle into a single storyline.
Despite well above average screen performances from scream queen, horror flick veteran Mary Elizabeth Winstead and the always watchable John Goodman, “10 Cloverfield Lane” suffers from overall sloppy storytelling with few actual jittery screen moments. Similar to last year’s mysterious and surprising “It Follows”, this movie propels a fascinating line of mystery that dissolves far too quickly and ends thoughtlessly.
As “Michelle”, the head-turning Winstead awakes after a car accident to find herself held captive in Goodman’s remote bomb shelter. From here, all the ingredients of a successful cult horror classic for the ages are in place. We join the young woman in the pursuit to find out her captor’s true intentions and survivalist blather.
The letdown of “10 Cloverfield Lane” results from director and filmmaker Dan Trachtenberg’s lack of a singular angle from which the plot transpires. His indecisive, back-and-forth jump between a science fiction space invasion thriller and a chilling account of a reclusive, psycho kidnapper holding twentysomethings in his underground basement. Conspiracy theories aside, this film misses several opportunities to further explore Goodman’s shady past, as well as, give viewers any insight into a budding relationship between Winstead’s “Michelle” and a fellow hostage (played by John Gallagher, Jr.).
So much potential and offerings were left untapped in this film. Knowing that one of the film industry’s brightest minds ever (J.J. Abrams, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”) produced this haphazard mess is jarring. “10 Cloverfield Lane” would’ve been better served had it been colder and creepier. Instead, just as it started to gain its abduction mojo, it blatantly changes course and loses its sinister rhythm altogether. With little doubt left for companion scare piece, let’s hope the next “Cloverfield” is more focused.
“10 Cloverfield Lane” is rated PG-13 for thematic material, including frightening sequences of threat, along with some violence and brief language. Its running time is 1 hour and 45 minutes.
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