Review: Crimson & ‘Cloverfield’

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The 2008 film Cloverfield, packaged in a perpetually wobbly camcorder recording, compelled moviegoers to load up on Dramamine; likewise, 10 Cloverfield Lane ought to come with a similar prescription, as even its title cards are enough to induce heart arrhythmia.

Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), Emmet (Jake Gallagher, Jr.) and Howard (John Goodman) are cooped up inside Howard’s homemade fallout shelter, located beneath his farm outside Lake Charles, Louisiana. Howard’s speculation on the threat outside veers toward an abstract, xenophobic fear (he regularly cites “the Russians” developing nuclear weapons as a likely cause), while those who watched the first film can guess the scale of the danger.

Michelle wakes up in Howard’s bomb shelter after a brutal car accident; her leg is harnessed to a wall, her arm hooked up to an IV bag. The allusions to Misery are pretty obvious, but to equate Goodman’s performance as Howard to Kathy Bates’ Annie Wilkes would sell his performance criminally short. While Wilkes harbored a literary fixation for her captive, Howard’s complicated psychology adds a beautiful ambiguity to the film, which regularly feels like a Twilight Zone episode.

This movie has a fetishistic attention to detail; the bunker is like a time capsule from the Atomic Age, with amenities like Howard’s anachronistic jukebox, a collection of VHS tapes and a handful of rain-damaged magazines for tweens, increasingly vandalized in pen. And the film holds a disquieting emphasis on the ambient sound: the hum in an air duct, the nasal drone of a generator, the tight clenching of Howard’s fat, veiny fists when he gets irritated.

Even the movie’s midway musical montage, which would have felt clumsy and superfluous in a lesser movie that didn’t have Cloverfield’s grace, is scored expertly by “I Think We’re Alone Now” by Tommy James and the Shondells. During this sequence, Emmet and Michelle watch a VHS of a movie called Cannibal Airlines. The musical choice must be deliberate, as one verse goes, “The beating of our hearts is the only sound” and the song’s lax lub-dub, lub-dub beat pattern is underlined by a bloody scream coming from the TV. You can’t catch a break.

This review was originally published on The Daily Emerald as part of a double review.

This story was originally published online for The Daily Emerald on March 13, 2016: http://www.dailyemerald.com/2016/03/13/double-take-crimson-cloverfield/

For more stories I’ve written for The Daily Emerald, go to: http://dailyemerald.com/author/emalone/

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