10 Cloverfield Lane, from first-time director Dan Trachenberg, stars scream queen Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Golden Globe winner John Goodman and John Gallagher Jr. The film starts with Michelle (Winstead) waking up to a shelter from a car accident, only to realise it’s an underground bunker belonging to Howard (Goodman). As she tries to figure out what happened to her post-accident, the truth becomes something unbelievable and more horrific than it seems.
In true JJ Abrams style (who serves as the producer of this film), the film’s plot secrets had been kept away from the media’s spotlight mostly. This secrecy pays off well especially if you’re watching a Cloverfield-esque film by JJ Abrams for the first time (Cloverfield is 2008 monster film by Abrams). The reality is that nobody knows what this story is ultimately about until you’re seated in from of the film in the theatres. As bits and pieces of truth and untruth starts to pile up, you are left to guess what really happens next. Is this a monster film like what most Cloverfield watchers expect? Or is this really a psycho-thriller about a kidnapper holding a girl as hostage?
Unlike most films these days with large ensemble casts, 10 Cloverfield Lane focuses mainly on the three characters we see in the film. The good thing about having such a small cast list is that Trachenberg has enough airtime to develop each of the character’s story, yet at the same time, leaving so much untold to keep the suspense of the film. Of course, the acting chops from the cast helped too. Winstead, with her cemented fame in horror films like Final Destination 3 and The Thing, gives off a familiar vibe from her scream queen days to elevate the film’s suspense. Goodman, with his teddy bear-like vibe while channeling the likes of a deranged doomsday prepper and a psychotic kidnapper, helps to keep the film’s discourse between truth and appearance of truth. While Gallagher remains as a supporting role, his presence is undoubtedly important in setting the tone of the film.
The limited marketing of the film and its masterful secrecy that only works pre-film might derail 10 Cloverfield Lane as a huge box office cash cow for Trachenberg and Abrams, but it is nonetheless a beautifully crafted psycho-thriller that will not fail to entertain.