10 Cloverfield Lane: The monster inside

Here is one from my home girl, Jess [aka @goonersgirl008 on the ol’ Twitter machine]. She is spot on about Cloverfield Lane. It’s all types of dopeness.

I saw “Cloverfield” in 2008, and was absolutely blown away. Despite its “Blair Witch Project” jump cinematography, it was really suspenseful and enjoyable. It was so compact, so simple, but so out there at the same time. J.J. Abrams really has reinvented the world of science fiction in the new millennium. When I was in high school, I saw “War of the Worlds” (1953), and it really struck me how extraterrestrial films have evolved since then. I had seen “E.T”, the original “Star Wars” trilogy, and Ridley Scott’s “Alien” films, so I could clearly see the trajectory in technology changing. But what struck me about those aliens straight from the mind of H.G. Wells, who wrote the book in 1898, is how threatening they could be without all of the features that we’ve come to expect.

J.J. Abrams has taken lessons from everything that came before, and come up with something that works well. I’m not going to get into the big franchises here, this is about what he’s done outside of them. From “Alias” and “Lost” to “Cloverfield”, “Super 8”, and “10 Cloverfield Lane”, he’s made sci-fi accessible and relatable on a human level. He’s a character based producer, and he’s done a great job of putting together a team that puts these human stories in alien films.

From the minute I saw Mary Elizabeth Winstead packing up and getting out of dodge, I was invested in Michelle. I’ve heard her called the next Sigourney Weaver, and that’s not an unflattering assessment. She carried this entire film on her shoulders, and she did it so seamlessly. I’ve seen her in the “Final Destination” films and thought that she was legit, but this film just shows how well she’s hit her stride. Michelle is basically Kickass Spice. No matter what happens to her, she just keeps going. She’s not a damsel in distress, and she keeps a cool head despite every nightmare obstacle thrown at her. I want to be Michelle when I grow up.

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And John Goodman, whom I’ve loved since “Roseanne”, is a man of many faces and feelings. He can be the straight man, the sweetheart, the mad man, and he was all of those things as Howard. I feared Howard, I trusted Howard, and I feared him again. He hit every single note as a man who’ve seen too much, and has gone over the edge. I nearly forgot about the imminent threat outside, with his imminent threat inside the bunker. It was like Walter Sobchak worked on satellites instead of going to ‘Nam and then lost it in a world that refused to trust him. His loneliness and pain made me empathize with him even when he did his worst.

I’d only seen John Gallagher Jr. on the “The Newsroom” prior to this film. I had a hard time really getting into the Jim character but his turn as Emmett made me a believer. You’ve got a guy who never went anywhere, mostly out of fear of the unknown. And he ended up in the bunker with Michelle and Howard because of this fear.

The characters were so compelling, and the progression of the plot was a perfect slow burn. There were no frantic jump scares here. The direction and the narrative were so methodical. The film had more to say about monsters of the human kind than it did of the non-human kind. The message that villains can take all shapes and forms is a potent one. At one point, you think you’ve gotten a happy family unit, and that they can brave the shitstorm outside, and then it slowly cracks and breaks down until a confrontation on all fronts is inevitable.

 This is very much owed to Dan Trachtenberg’s direction in his first feature, he pulled everything together just right. And right in the same vein, I must give massive kudos to Josh Campbell, Matthew Stuecken, and Damien Chazelle for writing something so suspenseful and interesting at the same time. It was almost Hitchcockesque in it’s presentation.

I don’t generally care for spinoffs and sequels or requels, but if they wanna drop 11 Cloverfield Lane, or Cloverfield Houston, I’ll be there. Just keep doing you, J.J. and Company.

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