The original Cloverfield, released in 2008, attempted to revive and modernize the monster horror genre through the use of shaky, first-person camera footage.The promotions for the film used Blair Witch Project-style strategies to shroud things in mystery, but it was pretty clear that an alien invasion did not hit New York City. The film was received variously as refreshing and as an opportunistic way to prey on post-9/11 anxiety. Dan Trachtenberg's 2016 film 10 Cloverfield Lane has an at first barely recognizable connection to the monster-movie frenzy of its predecessor. The film spends the majority of its time shrinking the conflict from a global threat of aliens or monsters to a close personal conflict between its protagonists, Howard (John Goodman) and Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). Michelle wakes to find that Howard is holding her hostage, and learns that a supposed chemical attack has rendered the outside air unbreathable.
Goodman delivers a great performance as a malicious kidnapper and doomsday prepper with a troubling secret. Winstead’s role as a bad-ass fighting back against her kidnapper, and against whatever cataclysm is brewing outside, left me wanting to see her as a focal point in future iterations of the franchise. The film does succeed in creating a certain slow-moving tension, but it still left a sour taste in audiences' mouths. It's obvious that 10 Cloverfield Lane hinges on the booming interest in the kidnapping and the "Taken" genre popular in recent years of modern cinema, but also feeds into another current—global anxiety, the threat of nuclear war. It screens here as part of Cinematheque's series honoring director and screenwriter Damien Chazelle, who co-wrote 10 Cloverfield Lane. Chazelle will also be making an in-person visit on Feb. 23. —John McCracken