’10 Cloverfield Lane’ review – Chekhov’s Gun and Abrams’ Mystery Box

“Remove everything that has no relevance to the story. If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it’s not going to be fired, it shouldn’t be hanging there.”
— Anton Chekhov

Never has this been truer than in 10 Cloverfield Lane. Nothing is left untouched by our resourceful protagonist. It was almost like watching a speed-run of a point-and-click adventure game in which the character winds up trapped in a bunker and the objective is to escape…at first. Because, just as you seem to think you have a grip on Michelle’s (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) situation, it suddenly changes, new information is revealed or a character acts and our heroine must adapt. Even in the promotion, the studio kept their cards close to their chest and didn’t allow us to know whether this was a much-anticipated sequel to Cloverfield (2008) or whether that was just a way to mislead us.

That is exactly what makes this a great mystery-thriller. I really couldn’t predict where the plot was going. Although this got tiring occasionally, sometimes making me think, “Pick a story, already!” it did keep me invested until the ending, at which I was certainly not disappointed. As well as this, there is a great deal of ambiguity to each of the three main characters. Michelle has abandoned her fiancé for reasons unknown, Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.) broke into the bunker and don’t even get me started on, would-be antagonist, Howard (John Goodman).

Speaking of whom, each of the three actors on this extensive cast-list perform exceptionally well. John Goodman continues to impress – I don’t think he could ever disappoint. He plays creepy and concerned simultaneous and is the driving force behind the mystery. Never really knowing where you are just from reading his face is what makes him so scary. John Gallagher Jr. also played his character well, with subtle gestures which portray a very self-confined character. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is not particularly a stand-out performance, honestly. I didn’t entirely believe that she was in distress, which slightly took me out of it at the beginning, but eventually helped lend to the portrayal of her character as always being on top of the situation.

Something that is hugely impactful is the score in this film. Not only does it effectively convey the sense of fear and suspense but it also acts as a kind of throwback to classic 80s horror movies. I’m no music expert, but something about it was refreshingly reminiscent of classic soundtracks from films such as The Thing (1982).

Overall, despite technically being a post-apocalyptic sci-fi movie, the large majority of this film is fantastically eerie and claustrophobic making it a completely unique kind of horror movie.

Written by Sam Packer

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