Monday, November 20, 2017
Things To Do

Review: Why '10 Cloverfield Lane' is one of the greatest sequels of all time

RECOMMENDED READING


The standard was set so low, and the results are thrilling enough that 10 Cloverfield Lane must be considered one of the greatest sequels of all time.

In an impressive feature debut, director Dan Trachtenberg fashioned a tangential follow-up to 2008's shakycam kaiju flick Cloverfield. Only the title and an unfortunate late tonal shift directly connect 10 Cloverfield Lane to its irritating predecessor.

This is a tense, superbly acted mystery of collateral paranoia after Cloverfield, in which we couldn't discern was happening. Until it isn't.

Trachtenberg works from a screenplay that wasn't intended as part of a Cloverfield movie universe, as producer J.J. Abrams has hinted (and the final shot promises). You can tell where the original idea ends and the sci-fi ride is hitched. 10 Cloverfield Lane makes all the connection it needs with one detonated f-bomb; everything afterward is just sensory salve for the CGI-dependent.

But what a movie up to that point.

10 Cloverfield Lane gets into our heads because that's where the scariest stuff happens. Terror is announced in quiet terms; a clean shaven face or a missed answer in a board game. It's Room without motherly instinct shielding her son and the audience from bad things happening. Yet much funnier, in a nervous sort of way.

In a wordless opening set to Bear McCreary's menacing music, Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) packs and scampers; why isn't explained. A jarring accident later, Michelle awakens, injured and shackled in a windowless concrete room.

She is a prisoner of Howard (John Goodman), a genially unhinged survivalist who insists otherwise. He saved her life by bringing her to a bunker beneath his farmhouse, after some kind of attack — Chemical? Nuclear? Russians? Martians? — on humanity.

Howard sounds crazy, but we saw the first movie. 10 Cloverfield Lane superbly shuffles what we know (and don't) and what the characters are experiencing. At times, Howard seems less insane; maybe he really is doing a favor for Michelle and willing lodger Emmitt (John Gallagher Jr.), who helped build the bunker. Then Howard snaps, like an angrily mismanaged parent.

Winstead makes a resourceful victim of Michelle, always seeking an escape angle, from smuggling contraband to fake-flirting Emmitt to push Howard's buttons. There's also a trace of Stockholm syndrome in Michelle, invited by Howard's homey touches: a jukebox, the rubber ducky shower curtain. Women in peril are seldom so respectfully drawn in scary movies.

Yet above all else this movie is Goodman's showcase, a rare leading role he capitalizes upon with a performance to be considered among his finest ever. Everything Goodman has been in movies — gruff, goofy, dangerous, pathetic — is right here in Howard, conveyed with tiny bits of acting business adding up to a great portrayal of a more frightening monster than alien lizards.

10 Cloverfield Lane isn't airtight; Howard has conveniently lax standards in storing materials that could be used against him, and a couple of expositional monologues slow the movie's roll. There are plenty more scenes that genuinely entertain, like a montage of this odd household being established, set to I Think We're Alone Now, the Tommy James and the Shondells version, not the low-hanging Tiffany fruit.

I wish Trachtenberg ended his movie at my idea of a better moment, but that's what the stop button on a remote is for. Nevertheless, 10 Cloverfield Lane joins The Witch as evidence of a refreshing development in movie terror, toying with brains rather than splattering them.

Contact Steve Persall at [email protected] or (727) 893-8365. Follow @StevePersall.

Comments

Tuesday’s sports on TV/radio

TODAYBoxingWelterweights: Alexander vs. Castillo7:30 p.m.FS1College basketballMaui Invitational semifinal1:30 p.m.ESPNLegends Classic third-place game3:30 p.m.ESPNUMaui Invitational consolation game4 p.m.ESPN2Legends Classic final6 p.m.ESPN2George Ma...
Updated: 1 hour ago
What to watch this week: ‘Marvel’s Runaways,’ ‘Godless,’ Thanksgiving specials

What to watch this week: ‘Marvel’s Runaways,’ ‘Godless,’ Thanksgiving specials

MondayDavid Letterman: The Mark Twain Prize, 9 p.m., PBS: A special celebrating the work of Late Night and The Late Show host David Letterman.SERIES PREMIERE: Big Hero 6 the Series, 8 p.m., Disney Channel: The new animated series takes place after th...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Nov. 21

Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Nov. 21

Ice Skating at Tampa’s Winter Village: Even in Florida, you can get in the holiday spirit by ice skating on an outdoor rink in the park. Each 90-minute session includes skate rental. Stop by the cafe for themed drinks and holiday snacks. 10 a.m., Cur...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Disney-Pixar’s ‘Coco’ has a Dia de los Muertos theme and is, well, lifeless

Disney-Pixar’s ‘Coco’ has a Dia de los Muertos theme and is, well, lifeless

Disney-Pixar’s Coco was more enjoyable three years ago when it was titled The Book of Life and came from Twentieth Century Fox.Both animated features spring from Mexico’s Dia de los Muertos celebration, the annual "day of the dead" when departed rela...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Nov. 23

Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Nov. 23

Christmas Town at Busch Gardens: More than 2 million twinkling lights transform the park into a holiday wonderland with Rudolph, Sam the Snowman, Christmas-themed entertainment and visits with Santa. Included with admission on select nights through D...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Nov. 22

Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Nov. 22

Much Ado About Nothing: William Shakespeare’s romantic comedy gets an update by placing lovers Beatrice and Benedick against the backdrop of the Florida Keys as World War II is drawing to a close. Through Dec. 10. 7 p.m., American Stage Theatre Compa...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Tips for first-time Thanksgiving hosts (or really, any of us)

Tips for first-time Thanksgiving hosts (or really, any of us)

Take small bites.This may be the most crucial advice for Thanksgiving hosts who don’t have years of cooking and coordinating experience to provide the confidence that comes with leading the charge on the year’s biggest cooking day.It’s the first thin...
Published: 11/20/17
Musicians unite at AMAs in wake of tumultuous year

Musicians unite at AMAs in wake of tumultuous year

The 2017 American Music Awards marked a night of unison, positive vibes and American pride as musicians spoke about coming together in a year dominated by natural disasters, violence and divisive politics.Kelly Clarkson and Pink kicked off the three-...
Published: 11/20/17
Review: Et Cultura festival brings exceptional music, leaves room for growth in St. Petersburg

Review: Et Cultura festival brings exceptional music, leaves room for growth in St. Petersburg

It's a big idea, St. Petersburg's Et Cultura festival. You can't take it all in at once. You probably wouldn't want to.Yet in just two years Et Cultura has positioned itself as a cultural movement to be reckoned with in a city that loves and embraces...
Published: 11/20/17
American wines red, white and sparkling for your Thanksgiving table

American wines red, white and sparkling for your Thanksgiving table

You’ve dusted off Grandma’s good crystal for the Thanksgiving table. Or you’ve pulled out all your mismatched stems to have enough for every place. Now what to pour?For this most American meal, based on foods native to America — turkey, pumpkin, corn...
Published: 11/20/17