Whether you loved it or hated it, 1999’s micro-budgeted indie smash The Blair Witch Project revolutionized the way movies are made in Hollywood. Arguably the first viral video sensation of the digital age, Witch didn’t just change the way movies are marketed online – the film’s super creepy, old school website still gives me the shivers! – but it also changed the way movies, especially horror films, are shot through the groundbreaking use of so-called found footage.
Witch wasn’t the first film to use found footage to make audiences’ skin crawl, but after raking in close to $250M worldwide, it was definitely the biggest. And though the concept has grown a bit creaky over the years with loads of lame knock-offs and one really bad sequel (Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 anyone?) if you ask me, the film that officially killed everything that was real and authentically scary about the found footage subgenre was 2008’s God-awful Cloverfield.
Mainstream Hollywood’s idea of a gritty, hand-held monster movie, everything about the J.J. Abram’s-produced Cloverfield felt forced, fake and totally recycled from other movies. An empty, soulless shell of a film about a supposed alien invasion in NYC, perhaps the best thing about the original Cloverfield is that almost all of the main characters (spoiler alert) die at the end in a fiery explosion. Yep, I hated it that much.
So when I heard that Abrams was getting the band back together to craft a hush-hush sequel called 10 Cloverfield Lane I was ready to hate that film even more. And then something totally unexpected happened…Lane turned out to be a really great little movie.
Ditching the found footage concept of the original, Lane is a taut cat-and-mouse thriller set almost entirely inside an eerily-homey subterranean bomb shelter while the events of Cloverfield play out up above, or don’t, depending on who you believe. And if that sounds vague, it totally is, but, trust me, that unsettling ambiguity is one of the best parts of the movie. Not knowing what is real or not or who is telling the truth or lying at any given moment has never been this gleefully unnerving.
Starring a breathtakingly good John Goodman as the conspiracy mad master of the underground bunker and Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, TV’s Mercy Street) and John Gallagher Jr. (TV’s The Newsroom) as his guests/captives, Lane is a clever, darkly funny puzzle from start to finish. And speaking of puzzles, one of the film’s many self-referential in-jokes is a bit concerning a puzzle that the trio work on for days only to ultimately discover that some key pieces are missing from the box. Hilarious! Also fun and insanely suspenseful is a double entendre laden Charades-like game the trio plays at one point. Trust me, Santa Claus has never sounded more menacing!
Directed by newcomer Dan Trachtenberg from a killer screenplay by Josh Campbell, Matthew Stuecken and Oscar-nominated Whiplash writer-director Damien Chazelle, Lane has too spectacular of an ending for me to ruin it for you here. But just know that like the mythical phoenix rising from the ashes, Lane emerges from the flaming shitstorm of the original Cloverfield to launch (hopefully) the next great sci-fi/horror franchise and I, for one, cannot wait for the next juicy chapter.
Now playing on select Virgin Atlantic, Delta, Asiana Airlines, Air New Zealand, Air Tahiti Nui, EVA Air and British Airways flights worldwide, 10 Cloverfield Lane is also available via streaming at iTunes, Amazon Video and Google Play.