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10 Cloverfield Lane - DVD Review

Cloverfield Lane

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

WHEN is a blockbuster not a blockbuster? When it doesn’t conform to standard stereotypes.

Dan Trachtenberg’s 10 Cloverfield Lane is that rare kind of surprise: an event movie that delights by virtue of its smallness, its ingenuity and the fact that you’ll know very little about it going in.

Described as “a spiritual successor” or “blood relative” to JJ Abrams’ found footage creature feature Cloverfield, this stand-alone chapter is, by turns, achingly tense, grimly macabre, darkly amusing and refreshingly intelligent.

What’s more, it operates from that rare starting point: an inability to anticipate what lies ahead given how little the marketing campaign has given away. The teaser trailers have remained just that; while there wasn’t even any production awareness given the speed with which it was put together and the secrecy that was maintained (the earliest anyone heard about the film was in January when a surprise trailer landed).

So, without wanting to give too much away, here’s a little of what to expect. Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) has just decided to leave her boyfriend when she is involved in a terrible accident. When she awakes, she finds herself locked in a cellar with Howard (John Goodman), a Doomsday fanatic who tells her that the world outside is now uninhabitable and that he is her only means of survival.

Locked in with these two is another man, Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.), who tells Michelle he wanted to be there, but who also seems wary of Howard’s true intentions and volatile mood swings. It’s not long before Michelle decides she needs to escape.

Conceived by JJ Abrams while he was making Star Wars: The Force Awakens and co-written by Drew Goddard and Daniel Casey, 10 Cloverfield Lane has a lot of fun playing with perception. How mad is Howard? How trust-worthy is Emmett? Yet it also knows how to toy with expectation too. As a result, it gives its lead trio plenty to play with.

Winstead, for her part, creates a believable heroine who is, by turns, scared yet resourceful and determined to survive, while Gallagher Jr is suitably mysterious as her potential ally. But this is Goodman’s film and his Howard is a fascinating enigma: someone who could just as easily be a misunderstood good Samaritan as he could be a monster.

And just when you think you have the measure of him [and the material], Trachtenberg throws in another twist to keep the momentum going.

The first two thirds of the film are the best, relying on a keen sense of claustrophobic tension that Hitchcock would be proud of (not to mention several horror directors), while the final third opens things up and really allows all hell to break loose. It’s a white knuckle ride at times, with some of the material feeling far too extreme for the 12A certificate.

But even if the final scene underwhelms slightly, 10 Cloverfield Lane has done more than enough to impress and entertain. It’s a pulse quickener of high quality that grips from start to finish.

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 106mins
UK Blu-ray & DVD Release: July 25, 2016