10 Cloverfield Lane is an adaptation loosely connected to its source material, an installment that mimics tonal shifts and arpeggios similar to 2008’s Cloverfield directed by Matt Reeves. J.J. Abrams has called 10 Cloverfield Lane a “blood relative” and that is as apt a comment as ever.
10 Cloverfield Lane is not a lavish extravaganza for horror or science fiction fanatics, nor is it a blockbuster. A modest $15 million budget and 103-minute running time doesn’t jump out at you as something that’s a must-see.
10 Cloverfield Lane reminds me of old-time horror—horror that is trying to be rejuvenated and captivated again, such as in 2014’s The Babadook. Jump scares have outlived their usefulness and so have over-the-top special effects. What truly scares us is our own thoughts. The brain is more qualified to scare us than anything a master designer can create or a cameraman can capture. We scare ourselves. We just need a push in the right direction.
Nerve-grating tension and chilling dialogue can be the tools to give us that little push, and they’re the ones director Dan Trachtenberg best utilizes in 2016’s first horror hit. Trachtenberg’s weaknesses as a first-time director are overshadowed by the lead roles of Mary Elizabeth Winstead and John Goodman, who ultimately steal the spotlight with an iron fist.
This film’s main course is not its plot, but its moving pieces, those pieces being its stars. Winstead, who’s made a name for herself as a scream queen, feels right at home in this role, as Goodman delivers a character that’s just awkward enough to make you feel like you’re teetering off a cliff.
I have to applaud this film, even if I do so half-heartedly.
To demonstrate: I loved sledding as a kid and there was a big hill near our house at a local baseball park. I would climb that hill in a foot of snow and sometimes it took me a full five minutes to make my way up. When I finally did and pushed myself off the top, I felt a freeing sense of euphoria. The moment would only last 30 seconds at most, but it was worth it. I got what I came for and I would turn around and begin the cycle all again.
10 Cloverfield Lane felt like I was going through that same cycle except for a few key differences. The climb up felt like a full hour, the incline increasing at a moderate pace. I don’t want to oversell this film. It’s not a thriller of thrillers, but it does its work fairly well when all is said and done.
When I finally got to the top of the movie’s plot, the clock winding down, I expected vivacity, a gut punch. The third act doesn’t provide either of those. It has a spark, but with all that the film accomplishes in its first two thirds, one expects more and the critics have echoed my sentiments. The third act does not do this film justice. It feels like a parent bought the perfect present for their child for Christmas and then put a sticky note on it that said, “Sorry, son. Santa’s not real.”
However, the film’s third act isn’t a deal breaker. It has potential, but I also can’t deny that the phrase, “Soiled it, soiled it” in SpongeBob’s voice echoes in my head when I think about the film’s conclusion.
Once again, if you’re new to my blog, I’ve always ranked movies on a scale of 0-100 (I don’t know why, I just always have). Here’s the grading scale.
80-89 It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (Olympus Has Fallen, The Cable Guy, The Cabin in the Woods, Tears of the Sun, Edge of Tomorrow)
60-69 It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2, Beasts of No Nation, Terminator: Genisys)
40-49 This movie is just mediocre. It’s not doing anything other than the bare minimal, so morbidly boring that sometimes I’m actually angry I watched this. (War, The Ridiculous 6, The Lost Boys, Zombeavers, Crank)
30-39 Definitely worse than mediocre, the 30′s ironically define the 1930′s, full of depression, lack of accomplishments, poverty and just so dumb. (Centurion, Planet of the Apes, Stonados, Redemption, Pride and Prejudice)
0-19 Watching this movie resulted in one or more of the following: seizure, loss of brain cells, falling asleep/unconsciousness, feel you wasted your time/day, accomplished nothing for you, left the movie knowing less about it then you did going into it, constantly asking yourself why you came to see this movie, or near-death experience. In short, staring at a wall was just as entertaining as watching this movie. This movie deserved a sticker or a label that said, “WARNING: EXTREME AMOUNT OF SUCKAGE.” (The Coed and the Zombie Stoner, The Forbidden Dimensions, Cyborg, Outcast, Sabotage)
My score for 10 Cloverfield Land: 78.
If you’re a fan of horror, 10 Cloverfield Lane is a must-see for its cast’s ability to impact the story. If you’re not, I still give a light recommendation. 10 Cloverfield Lane is a should-see, not a must-see.