Are you on any heart medication? Are you of a particularly nervous disposition? Do you have a bladder you might describe as ‘untrustworthy’? If you answer yes to any of these then for the love of god don’t see 10 Cloverfield Lane. It’s so ruddy stressful that even the very brave might consider a spa break the second it’s over.
10 Cloverfield Lane is not a sequel to the 2008 alien attack movie Cloverfield but it’s in the spirit of, i.e. the spirit of making you terrified and confused for around 90 minutes. As before, going in you don’t want to know much beyond the bare bones. Mary Elizabeth Winstead (The Thing) is Michelle, a young woman who runs out on her fiancé and while driving to wherever is run off the road. She wakes up in a bare room. She meets her captor or savior (John Goodman, The Big Lebowski). He tells her the world outside is a nuclear desert and they must live below ground until it’s safe. She doesn’t know whether to believe him. Neither do we. He’s definitely a weirdo, but what type of weirdo. Michelle wants out. Or does she?
Director Dan Trachtenberg has only commercials and shorts to his name, yet he directs this ever-escalating thriller like a seasoned pro. He doesn’t loosen the tension from first frame to last, but keeps his plotting clear throughout the frantic fear. It’s all story, told at breakneck speed. He’s great with actors too. Goodman is a loon for the ages; Winstead is steel and short breath.
The script by newcomers Josh Campbell and Matthew Stuecken plus Damien Chazelle (Whiplash), deserves as much credit as Trachtenberg’s direction. They don’t just have surprises up their sleeves but also scenes that are just beautiful in isolation, like a board game session more fraught than even your worst family Christmas.
Finally, very seriously, a salute to the sound department. This film would not be nearly so frightening without the judicious use of noise. Scabbed scalp peeling off a pillow, scraping door locks, a silence far too long and far too pregnant with horrible possibility. The sounds, the horrible sounds, make you squirm just as much as the visuals.
It all combines for a big nervy, terrifying triumph. Take someone to hide behind. Take a Valium.