- A culture magazine reaching terminal verbosity -

'10 Cloverfield Lane' is Highly Effective Slow-Burn Thriller

TV/Film ReviewEthan WilliamsComment

Proving lightning can in fact strike twice, the marketing campaign that snuck 10 Cloverfield Lane's teaser onto the Super Bowl lineup did in fact generate that similar ripple of excitement that made Cloverfield an enormous viral success.

 But interestingly, producer JJ Abrams and company opted to distance this installment significantly from the found-footage Godzilla-inspired model that made so many waves in the film world and instead opted for a more straightforward thriller that seemingly has nothing in common with its predecessor.

10 Cloverfield Lane plays like a longform classic episode of The Twilight Zone, with a first act punctuated by some gut-punch thrills and a final two thirds expertly constructed to be one of the most effective slow-burn thrillers in recent memory.  So even when the twists and turns it charts are par for the course in this sort of sci-fi/thriller mix, it’s the blend of perfect pacing and a towering John Goodman that truly separates it from the pack.

Michelle (Scott Pilgrim's Mary Elizabeth Winstead) finds herself locked in an underground bunker with two strangers after a seemingly catastrophic event occurred on the world above. Also trapped is farmboy Emmett (Broadway’s John Gallagher, Jr.), a lovable yokel tinged with regret about missing out on his life before the incident.

Their captor is Howard, with John Goodman playing exactly the type of guy you'd expect to build a massive fallout shelter under his farmhouse. Goodman's awkward yet still somehow menacing personality is just enough to put you on edge despite his best intentions. Goodman is nothing if not affable and that’s why the fact that he could snap at any time on the two youngsters is truly unsettling. It's by far the movie's highlight and yet another gem in the filmography of one of the all-time great actors (forget Leo, where’s Goodman’s Oscar for The Big Lebowski?).

Cloverfield Lane takes its time carefully unfolding the mystery of what happened aboveground as well as what secrets Howard is hiding himself, and the result is a thriller that doesn't rely on jumps or gore and treats its audience with respect rather than contempt. The pacing keeps things chugging along at a thrilling rate and aside from a somewhat underwhelming final ten minutes, 10 Cloverfield Lane is nail-biting fun that's far more than just a cheap marketing gimmick. If this is to be our new horror/sci-fi anthology, let’s not wait another eight years to get the next installment off the ground.