10 Cloverfield Lane

10 cloverfield lane

In terms of marketing the Cloverfield franchise, as it is now, has been one of the most innovative of the 21st Century. When 2008’s Cloverfield trailer first dropped it was one of the cleverest and most impressive pieces of viral marketing ever produced. Using the growing success of Youtube as a launchpad and with social networking starting to consume the cyber sphere of the internet, getting people sharing the trailer through Facebook and Twitter prompted everyone to ask what is Cloverfield? Despite what you thought of the finished product the film made serious financial ‘bacon’ and in January 2016, two months before release, 10 Cloverfield Lane’s trailer dropped, the first mention of a supposed sequel and history repeated itself as people liked, shared and wondered what this new entity was.

Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) has left her husband and is driving across the country when she is involved in a traffic accident. She awakes restrained in an underground bunker and is greeted by Howard (John Goodman) who tells her there has been an apocalyptic event and he brought her to the bunker, saving her life in the process. There is another man in the shelter, Emmet (John Gallagher Jr.), but Howard says everyone else is now dead, and she cannot leave the shelter.

10 Cloverfield Lane is not connected to its predecessor, and according to J.J Abrams he hopes to turn Cloverfield into an anthology franchise telling separate stories that are linked by theme/genre but take place within separate universes. An interesting premise that takes the recognisable ‘brand’ of the Cloverfield name and applies it to original ideas to give them a wider audience appeal.

With a first time director at the helm (Dan Trachtenburg) I was surprised by the impressive use of control the film has. It utilises the cramped conditions to create tension between the characters using the claustrophobic setting to trap Michelle in a paranoia inducing space. The lack of privacy, coupled with the unknown motivations of the characters makes an intriguingly taut thriller. What really makes the film so fiercely watchable are the performances of the triumvirate of Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Gallagher Jr. and John Goodman. Winstead and Gallagher are both terrific; especially in the scenes their characters spend together. Their chemistry is fantastic, and the writing by Josh Campbell, Matt Stuecken and Damien Chazelle (of Whiplash fame) allows the actors to take already great material and build upon it with a pair of hard working performances that amplifies the films unsettling atmosphere. Then there is John Goodman. Simply put, he nails it. As brilliant as the other performers are Goodman is a revelation, a pleasure to watch. A terrific actor, he manages to turn in a performance that is at times menacing, pitiable, hilarious and terrifying. Also I give a tip of the hat to Bear Mccreary for his tense and interesting musical score, after his rather uninspired work on The Boy, a welcome return to form.

The films climax may divide people with the direction it takes, however I found its final resolution highly fulfilling. 10 Cloverfield Lane takes a rather simple premise and excels beyond expectations through great direction, fine writing and storytelling and some wonderful performances by the three main players. I hope if you decide to visit 10 Cloverfield Lane, I do recommend it; that you are as entertained as I was.

**** stars out of *****

Review by Alexander Halsall

The Witch

The Witch

“Would you like to live deliciously?” This psychological horror, a debut feature of writer/director Robert Eggers, was a success at Sundance last year, winning the best directing award for a dramatic feature. Set in 17th century New England, America, in the early years of colonialism, a puritan family are banished from their plantation for vague, religion based, reasons. They move to an uninhabited area by a large forest. The family consist of William (Ralph Ineson) and Katherine (Kate Dickie), their oldest child Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy), son Caleb (Harvey Scrimshaw), twins Mercy and Jonas (Ellie Grainger & Lucas Dawson), and new born Samuel (I apologise to the baby/babies that played the part as I cannot find their names anywhere, my bad). When Samuel is snatched away by unseen forces the family begin to fear they are falling victim to a witch/assorted devilry.

The film manages to maintain a steady, restrained pace throughout without losing the viewer’s focus. I began feeling a haunting unease about five minutes in that barely let up until the end. Eggers control and restraint in his direction kept me gripped, along with a dazzling array of visual imagery that both enthrals and horrifies. The fiercely concise filmmaking keeps the narrative, and motivations of the characters clearly represented, and is complimented by Eggers equally precise script. The family’s unhealthy obsession with sin and their constant fear of its threat upon themselves and each other create a feeling of unease and almost inevitability of the carnage to come. Ineson and Dickie are terrific as the parents portraying the ever growing insanity of an isolated couple, whose guilt for the loss of Samuel, yet to be a baptised and therefore destined to burn in hell if not found, coupled with they’re paranoia towards their children whom they constantly suspect of sin leaves them desolate shards of ever decreasing humanity. Anya Taylor-Joy is also wonderful as Thomasin, the film as a whole portrays her with an ambiguity that Taylor-Joy’s performance compliments terrifically. Jarin Blaschke’s cinematography imbues The Witch with natural beauty, compromised by untamed landscapes. The seasonal elements of the winter reflect a mix of beauty and horror, like the witches that the family fear so much. This permeates through the mind so much more powerfully thanks to Robert Korven’s hazardous, unsubtle musical score which assaults the audience with a harsh powerful cacophony of strings.

I guess what I’m trying to say is I really enjoyed this film, and I hope you take the chance to check it out. At my screening I overheard other viewers who seemed less than impressed with what they saw, or simply confused. I feel the Witch could be a highly divisive film, which even for those who dislike it will inspire discussion through its powerfully unerring aesthetic.

***** out of *****

Review by Alexander Halsall