I was just about as shocked as anyone when I heard that a Cloverfield sequel had been in the works. And not only that, the movie was already filmed and finished and would be releasing THIS year. J.J. Abrams is not a stranger to stunts and mystery when it comes to films he’s involved with and this case is no different.
FULL SPOILERS AHEAD
I’m going to start out with a negative that really has nothing to do with the film itself. The marketing I feel has done a great injustice to this film by trying to shoe horn it in to the “Cloverfield Universe” because you know everything has to be connected so we can have a franchise on our hands.
This movie has NOTHING to do with 2008’s Cloverfield, a movie in which a giant “kaiju” monster wreaks havoc on hot twenty somethings in New York. The ONLY fucking tie is a scene in the very beginning of the movie where Mary Elizabeth Winstead is pumping gas at a gas station and you can seen a “SLUSHO” sign in the window. For those of you who aren’t total nerd freaks SLUSHO was a brand of Icee type beverage that existed in the Cloverfield movie’s VIRAL MARKETING. It wasn’t even prominent in the actual fucking movie. There’s a whole back story and comic I believe that delves deeper into the slusho mythos or whatever.
But there is no way in hell the casual movie going audience would know that. which means people are going into this movie expecting a giant fucking monster and what did they get? A very intense three person stage play.
Not that it’s a bad thing. This was a fantastic “Little” movie filled with standout performances. Performances undermined by the fact that suddenly what was originally called “The Cellar” had the name Cloverfield slapped onto it. John Goodman most likely will not be getting the nominations or at least recognition he deserves because let’s face it, Nobody takes monster movies seriously. Especially a “Sequel” to one.
Now on to my thoughts on the actual film itself. I’m going to try and judge it on its own merits and not lean to heavily on the Cloverfield aspect although it will have to come up once or twice.
The film starts with Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) packing up her shit and high tailing it outta town. Away from her troubles, commitment and unaware boyfriend. Already I like this chick. Most times men are the ones portrayed as total cowards who run away from their problems but this time around we are introduced to a female character who 1. Has relate able issues male or female. 2. Isn’t a virginal sweetheart 3.Doesn’t need to find her strength.
Michelle begins and ends the movie as a very strong active protagonist. her ark is not finding the strength to survive, she already has that. Her ark is something a little more down to earth and human. Home girl needs to stop running from her problems. I don’t know about you but i can TOTALLY relate.
On her way to wherever she’s going she gets T boned and rolls off the road. Next thing she wakes up in a cement cell, a cast on her leg as well as a hefty chain attached to the wall. She isn’t going anywhere. Immediately we feel her panic. I have always been a fan of Mary Elizabeth Winstead ever since Final Destination 3 and she proves here her capability as an actress. She conveys so much of her emotions with just a look, much of what she is feeling is said through her facial expressions because she doesn’t get a whole lot of time to speak her mind while in her predicament.
Soon heavy footsteps are heard and her cell door frightfully squeals open. The sound work is TOP NOTCH and really adds to the tension on screen. We dread hearing those footsteps and when we finally do we know trouble is coming. Instead that it doesn’t. Not right away at least. John Goodman’s Howard is scary, troubled and yet somehow full of heart. John Goodman conveys Howard’s madman antics with such earnest that despite his atrocities you begin to feel for him.
I thought it took Howard a little too long to tell Michelle what the hell was going on although it does add to the suspense. Through out the movie as we are trying to unravel the mystery of whats happening topside loud booms and groans can be heard from outside. What could it be? Aliens? Russians? Perhaps the monster from the previous film? Who knows. All we know is that Michelle is trapped in a basement with a giant madman spouting apocalyptic reasons as to why they cannot go outside.
There’s a third character along for the ride in John Gallagher Jr. ‘s Emmett. There isnt a whole ton to delve into with Emmett. But John Gallagher Jr is able to portray who his character is in a very short amount of time, and as soon as you think he may become annoying he flips to endearing instead. which is good because in one of the most intense scenes between our three characters he gets a bullet to the head from Howard.
The middle of the movie is your standard captive captor back and forth and sort of slows down until Emmett’s death. This marks the beginning of the third act. By this point we have discovered that something HAS indeed happened topside. Michelle is forced to turn away a survivor she encounters during one of her escape attempts. A woman shows up looking all kinds of jacked outside of the bunker entrance begging to be let in. Seeing that there is something wrong with the outside Michelle turns away.
Except TWIST Howard IS fucking crazy, just not about what we originally thought. Turns out he may have abducted a young woman before and kept her captive, not to mention killing Emmett in cold blood. So Michelle fashions herself a home made hasmat suit complete with soda bottle gas mask and pushes a barrel of acid onto a fallen Howard.
This is where the claustrophobic thriller turns into a sci-fi horror film. Howard scarily stalks Michelle as she tries to escape via ventilation shaft. A hugely tense scene as he violently stabs his buck knife through various points of the shaft trying to search out Michelle.
The bunker goes out in flames and Michelle manages to escape via freezing the exit lock and bashing it off. Once topside She quickly realizes that the air is NOT contaminated and she is able to breath freely without her gas mask. All seems totally normal outside, as she climbs to the roof of a car to get a better look TWIST remember that crazy comment Howard said about aliens earlier? SURPRISE! he was right. We get a fantastic somewhat stunning revelation as we see what appears to be an Alien craft slowly surveying Howard’s farmland.
Some people may be put off because at this point we had been watching a slow boiling drama and now we are dumped into crazy land. The vaginal looking craft drops what I guess is some kind of alien hunting dog to the ground to sniff out Michelle after she inadvertently starts a car alarm. A brief chase ensues and Michelle is eventually captured by the alien space craft. But in a scene that is EERILY similar to a scene from Steven Spielberg’s War of the Worlds, Michelle fashions a Molotov cocktail and tosses it into the ships gaping orifice.
Here she comes full circle with the ark she began at the start of the film. She finds a car that works and speeds off down the highway. She begins to get static filled messages from the radio telling survivors that it is safe in Baton Rouge and that anyone listening should head there. However the war is being fought in Houston and it is close to being won BUT they are in need of more fighters to make it happen. Michelle decides that instead of running to safety she is going to fight. she shifts gears and peels off to Houston as lightning illuminates larger ships hidden within the clouds.
All in All this is film is definitely worth the admission ticket despite having close to nothing to do with Cloverfield. I was on the edge of my seat from beginning to end and although we’ve scene similar movies like this before, the direction, performances and twists sets this film well above the rest. Tell me what you thought in the comments below!