Who’d have thought that Cloverfield would have had a sequel? Anyone who says to you that they saw a sequel coming are bare-faced liars as the movie-going public were all in shock when that teaser trailer was released not so long ago. It’s a credit to the studio that what they have released to promote the film has given away very little of the plot. It’s so refreshing to go into a screening cold and not entirely sure what to expect (so long as you avoid certain reviews). I have seen Cloverfield and enjoyed it for the popcorn flick that it was (I was going to detail the plot at this point but have edited it out. More about why later), but I never thought that it would spawn a sequel as it wasn’t anything particularly special. After all, it was just a mish-mash of cinema tropes gone by, albeit done entertainingly. When you look over the figures though I’m surprised they’ve waited eight years to release a sequel. It was a success at the box office (it took $170.8m from a $25m budget) and was generally well received by critics, so I’m shocked that it hasn’t got its own cinematic universe by now!
I usually describe a little of the plot at this point in a review, but I’ll try and be as vague as possible so that when you do see it you get the most out of it. Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is driving out of town following a break up with her fiancé. Later in the night she is involved in an accident whilst driving and wakes up chained to a wall in a locked room with her leg wrapped up and attached to an IV. She soon realises that her captor is Howard (John Goodman) who tells her he saved her from the roadside and that it is dangerous to go outside following an unknown attack…
…and that’s all I’m going to reveal, as the real strength of this film is that it puts the audience in the shoes of Winstead’s character. Like Michelle, at the start of the film you have no idea what is going on and whether Howard is a socially-awkward misunderstood loner trying to help or a raving psychotic with his very questionable intensions. Both put in amazing performances, but you wouldn’t expect anything less. It’s a lazy comparison I admit, but Winstead channels her inner Ripley superbly, and no one does crazy like Goodman.
The film has a compact running time and never out stays its welcome. This adds to the nail-biting tension throughout. It really is edge-of-your-seat stuff, so much so that I was squirming in my chair to the point where I thought my fidgeting must be disturbing the audience in the connecting seats. I genuinely believe I aged five years in 103 minutes! The editing is tight, the script is intelligent and well written and the directing is competent if nothing special (but it is a solid debut feature from Dan Trachtenberg).
You don’t have to have seen Cloverfield to get the most out of this film, in fact, if I have one criticism of the movie it’s the connection to its predecessor. This is very much a spiritual sequel to Cloverfield and bares extremely little resemblance to it, and I think it would have been a better experience to have not watched Cloverfield and gone into this film without any preconceptions of what is going on outside the bunker where Michelle is being held captive. The characters have no idea what has happened in the outside world and Michelle isn’t certain that anything has happened at all at the start and if I was watching this as a one-off movie with no connection to any previous film I would have felt more connected to the lead and gotten more out of it as a whole. It’s interesting to discover that the script was originally written as a film called The Cellar and it was only later adapted to fit in with the Cloverfield universe, which is a shame as it confirms that it was a theme that was shoe-horned in.
Despite this, I really enjoyed watching it and I highly recommend it, regardless of whether you have seen Cloverfield or not. Just make sure you have a drink afterwards to calm your nerves…