There’s been plenty of buzz lately about the secretive, viral-driven 10 Cloverfield Lane from J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot company and our friends over at Following the Nerd have sent us this review.

So, does it live up to the monster-sized hype? Let’s find out.

“Just when they think they have the answers, I change the questions” Rowdy Roddy Piper.

Having whipped audiences into a frenzy by dropping a surprise trailer for what was apparently a sequel to 2008 monster smash Cloverfield. The marketing team at JJ Abrams’ Bad Robot went into overdrive, restarting a lot of the viral websites and dropping several hints that this movie would be what Abrams calls “a blood relative” to Cloverfield. Curiously then director Dan Trachtenberg tempered expectations by stating that the movie shares none of the original characters and in fact doesn’t even take place in the same fictional universe as the original movie.

The film began life as a small budget thriller called “The Cellar” and the cast themselves have admitted they did not know the movie had any connection to Cloverfield until they saw the trailer. The strange thing is, once you remove the thought of this being tied to Cloverfield the movie is far more enjoyable for it.

The plot is straight out of a Twilight Zone episode. A woman, Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), gets into a car accident and when she wakes she finds herself locked in in a bunker owned by Howard (John Goodman), who tells her there has been and attack of some sort (Russians, Aliens, Art) and that they, along with fellow survivor Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.) are unable to leave.

10 Cloverfield Lane

From here the unlikely trio start to slowly unravel as the tension and paranoia begin to take over. Winstead is far from a damsel in distress and plays Michelle with Ripley like strength, resolve and intelligence. She refuses to play the victim and is constantly alert and at no point does the she make the audience think “why doesn’t she just…?”.

Gallagher Jr – who would be best known for playing Jim in the excellent Newsroom – is in similarly fine form. His Emmett is played just the right blend of naively and innocence that you find yourself flicking between empathy and suspicion for the duration.

The movie though belongs to Goodman. Again giving another of his force of nature performances that immediately has you wondering why he isn’t in more, he comes across as a terrifying mix of Charlie Meadows from Barton Fink and Dan from Roseanne. He gives a simmering volcano of a performance, even in his dormant moments you can’t settle in his presence as he constantly appears on the verge of erupting.

The Cloverfield mislead is understandable in that nowhere near as much interest would be here if not for the tie in. That said, the spectre of the movie’s title hangs over and detracts from what is a superior, tense thriller that deserves to be judged on its own merits. When the inevitable tacked on attempt to tie the film to Cloverfield begins, it brought to mind Highlander 2 of all movies, in that it managed to subtract from both the current film and its predecessor by messing with an already established mythology and somewhat diminishing the current situation the characters were in.

That said, judged on its own merits, 10 Cloverfield Lane is a wonderfully paced, smart thriller that features a trio of brilliant performances. It twists and turns in an unpredictable manner and despite my problems with the ending, it does open up a number of interesting possibilities.

Highly recommended.