10 Cloverfield Lane

10 Cloverfield Lane ★★★½

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

Isn't the title a spoiler in and of itself? (If I were a blogger, I could get a whole essay out of this.) After Super 8 and Cloverfield, this is the third J.J. Abrams (affiliated) joint in which the monster is seen almost entirely in total darkness the entire time, for ostensibly motivated reasons related to time of day/location but in reality because that means it's less expensive to realize the CGI beast. I totally get it, but at the same time, as my bud Doug Dillaman cracked on Twitter, "not everybody has Bong Joon-Ho level resources." And, in fact, no one has improved on that completely unnerving, no-soundtrack-jolt intro of The Host's monster: in broad daylight, on a bridge. C'MON J.J. It's really distracting to think about your budgetary cost-cutting measures while I'm watching the movie.

As everybody who watches this movie becomes instantly aware, this was obviously at one point a normal thriller that, for branding purposes, had some aliens grafted on at the end so that they could put "Cloverfield" in the title, thereby raising the budget from an initial $5 million to $15. When you watchit, you totally get it but — again! — ponder how much better this would have been were this not the case. Branding's a bitch.

Anyway, this movie is super solid work aside from those two things. Totally sticks the opening "let's see how far we can get without dialogue" exposition, all of the plants are placed in the right place and used interestingly without being too insultingly obvious. Rack-focuses 4 daze, actual framing. Nice detail work: in the first scene when MEW and JGJr are talking and John Goodman is obviously gonna pop up at some point, the two are framed against a pinkish wall that eliminates the blue-light doorway space which will inevitably cut to Goodman. So when he shows up, it's via a suddenly-timed cut rather than his suddenly looming into the left side of the frame, which makes his timing a genuine surprise. Good job everybody; this is nobody's idea of essential entertainment, but it's nice to see a movie made by people who clearly give a shit about being good at their craft, which is definitely nothing to take for granted. "Princess" = potentially #1 fight-the-patriarchy punchline of 2016.