Cloverfield was a lurching, visceral monster movie that played on our post-911 fears of sudden, inexplicable horror occurring in our cities, its grainy hand-held footage recalling the language of 24-hour news channels.
Eight years later its follow-up – “stable-mate” might be a better term – is every bit as skin-crawling, but for very different reasons. It starts with a jolting, visceral car crash that’s brilliantly cut together with the opening credits. The driver, Michelle, wakes in a breeze-block bunker, chained to the wall Saw-style. John Goodman’s Howard, a conspiracy nut who long ago stocked up on canned goods and tinfoil hats, appears at the door telling her not to panic: she’s a guest, not a prisoner. Oh, and by the way, the air outside is poisoned and everyone else is dead. Don’t worry, you can stay down here playing Monopoly with me and my pal Emmet. We’ll be out in a couple of years. Michelle thinks this sounds fishy, but the dead pigs outside the hatch do look like they’ve taken an acid bath…
One of the great pleasures of 10 Cloverfield Lane is you’re never quite sure if you’re watching a thriller, a disaster movie or a kidnap horror. Everything in the bunker becomes a potential clue, or a source of indeterminate dread. The acting is first class, especially from Goodman, who plays Howard with equal parts Santa Claus and Charles Manson. The result is terrifying and often brilliant; the left-field fright movie of the year.
First published in City A.M.