In Review

10 Cloverfield Lane: JJ Abrams's secret film comes out of hiding

Star Wars: The Force Awakens' director turns producer to offer fans a 'nerve-wracking' thriller

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JJ Abrams's psychological thriller 10 Cloverfield Lane opens in UK cinemas this week after being kept largely under wraps by its producer.

The film, a debut feature for director Dan Trachtenberg, stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Goodman and John Gallagher Jr, and has been described as the "spiritual successor" to the 2008 film, Cloverfield, a shaky-camera monster thriller and surprise hit.

The follow-up tells the story of Michelle (Winstead), who has a terrible car accident after arguing with her fiance and driving off. She wakes up to find she has been taken in by a survivalist called Howard (Goodman), who tells her there has been a catastrophic attack and she can't go outside his bunker. Fellow survivor Emmett (Gallagher Jr) corroborates his story, but Michelle becomes suspicious and unsure of whom to trust. 

The film has had little publicity, notes Peter Suderman on Vox. Like its predecessor, it was produced "entirely without fanfare or long-lead marketing", he says, adding: "There are secret government programmes with a bigger public footprint than this movie had until the last couple of weeks before its debut."

But Suderman notes that "secrecy has been a hallmark of Abrams's work throughout his cinematic career". It's not only a marketing choice, he says, but a narrative one - 10 Cloverfield Lane "doles out its revelations, big and small, with devastating skill and precision".

Though it is packaged within the same franchise as Cloverfield, the new film "has little in common with its predecessor", says Katherine McLaughlin on Little White Lies.

Instead, it is a "nerve-wracking and wry stand-alone thriller that mixes elements of sci-fi and horror while evoking a state of extreme paranoia", says McLaughlin who also praises the "trio of amazing performances".

10 Cloverfield Lane is "a totally different creature to be sure", says Pete Hammond on Deadline Hollywood.

"Gone is the tired found footage and shaky camera gimmicks of Cloverfield," he says, replaced "with the hallmarks of an old-fashioned suspense thriller that has much more in common with Alfred Hitchcock".

Richard Brody in the New Yorker says the "simple and suspenseful horror thriller calls for spare technique", but the director "smothers the action in showy camera work and an overly insistent music score".  

Still, he adds, "as the mystery unravels, he reveals flashes of a giddily hyperbolic pop imagination".

10 Cloverfield Lane is released in UK cinemas on Friday 18 March

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