10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)

Barnaby Page
3 min readMay 29

Writing a retrospective article recently on the original Cloverfield made me think again about the first — and by the far the better — of the two sequels. Here’s my take on it back when it was released…

10 Cloverfield Lane is not what you expect, at least three times over. For starters, it is not really a sequel to Cloverfield at all (although it shares a producer in J.J. Abrams), and indeed was not originally intended to have any connection with the 2008 alien-invasion riff.

The concept, it seems likely, was instead a claustrophobic psychological thriller of captivity, set somewhere between Markus Schleinzer’s grotesquely compelling Michael and the more acceptable, cartoony excesses of Misery.

It starts, unexpectedly and strikingly, just like Hitchcock’s Psycho (or I suppose Van Sant’s Psycho too): a young woman, driving alone into the night, fleeing the city to the background of an edgy string score. But then (via a Misery-like plot device) she finds herself in an underground bunker, involuntary guest of John Goodman.

Superb as always and somewhat recalling the Robin Williams of One Hour Photo, Goodman is at his most disquieting when he is trying to force normality on the artificial situation he has created: in the tense ordeal of a mock-family supper, for example. Perhaps the comfy domesticity of the film’s title is itself a black joke.

For there is another guest, too, the also excellent John Gallagher, Jr., and much of the film’s interest lies in watching Mary Elizabeth Winstead (who completes a trio of fine performances) try to judge the balance of relationships among the three. Is Gallagher a fellow prisoner, or an assistant captor? Is he a son-substitute complementing her daughter-substitute? Why is Goodman keeping them there, and who has he kept there before? Is he telling the truth about the world beyond the bunker door?

You probably know the twist by now, but I’ll keep quiet in case you don’t. Suffice to say that — after the bunker drama plays itself out via a couple of very genuine shocks, a few truly creepy moments and just a little predictableness — Winstead opens the door, literally, on what seems to be a completely different film.

This one does indeed resemble Cloverfield, and confirms that in an echo of the…

Barnaby Page

Barnaby is a journalist based in Suffolk, UK. By day he covers science and public policy; by night, film and classical music. He has also been a cinema manager.