The law of sequels states they will always be inferior to the original, and as films such as Scream 2 and 22 Jump St have spelled out for us, they need to be bigger, but with exactly the same plot. 10 Cloverfield Lane ignores all of these demands. In making a sequel to the enjoyable POV movie Cloverfield, the easy option would be to make Battle for Cloverfield, an all out action, muscular, Independence Day, kick alien ass type movie. But Cloverfield Lane isn’t really a sequel at all, it’s more a tangential film. What is happening elsewhere in the same universe that Cloverfield is occurring? I’ve often been frustrated at the manner in which sequels follow not only the same story but the same tone. I want more tangential films – a romantic drama set when a couple meet in the aftermath of a James Bond car chase through a city, an offbeat comedy about what happens in Stormtrooper training camp, etc.
I remember seeing this discussion programme with Clive Barker, John Carpenter and Roger Corman in the 90s. They knocked around ideas for the perfect horror movie and discussed the idea where the last person left alive is not a hero but evil, and has a body hiding in the bedroom. This is the type of conflict that Cloverfield Lane sets up. The main character, Michelle, is rescued by survivalist nut, Howard. He tells her that there has been an attack, and they must stay in his bunker. We know this (from the title) and gradually Michelle appreciates it too. But that Howard is not a good guy is also quickly evident.
The film is superbly scripted, Goodman’s survivalist is sincere and menacing, and as the audience we are caught in the same dilemma as Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s Michelle – is captivity or escape the better choice. The suspense is kept up at just the right pace, and there is one moment that made my mouth genuinely drop open in shock. Having written a very good escape movie, it is brave enough to give us 15 minutes of high impact sci-fi. A movie doesn’t have to be one thing, although too often that is exactly what we expect from them. Cloverfield Lane reminds us that films can be more than one thing: it is simultaneously a psychological thriller and a creature movie, a low budget and then in the last 15 minutes goes big budget, a sequel and a wholly original film.