After drowning in midterms and papers for what felt like an endless month, I decided to reward myself by going to see a movie, in a theater, all alone. This is a big deal for two reasons:
1) As a film major, I see so much and have to analyze every frame of the film I’m watching that the magic of cinema has quickly dissipated.
2) I’ve never gone to see a movie alone.
Now I’m not saying I don’t love the film program here, because I do. There are some truly wonderful professors and classes that have made me look at cinema in entirely different ways than I ever thought was possible. If it weren’t for a class on color theory, I don’t think I would have ever gotten the beauty and craft that goes into mise-en-scene, costumes and production design. Seriously, if it weren’t for that class, I would have never respected the legends Douglas Sirk or Michael Powell like I do now.
And, it’s not like I haven’t considered it before. There are plenty of obscure art house films that I would love to go see, but I realize that it would be a difficult sell to get anyone to go with me. So most of the time, when I do want to watch a nonmainstream, non-pop culture film, I just decide to chill and scroll through Netflix to catch up on some hidden independent gems inspired by Cassavetes or foreign observational documentaries in the vain of Rouch. As with most people though, I just end up looking through Netflix’s endless catalog instead of picking an actual film to sit back to and watch.
After these midterms, however, I knew I couldn’t pull myself to go see anything that would force me to strain my intellectual capacity to get any semblance of a message. I wasn’t in the mood for anything inspired by Bresson or Godard or Haneke. I needed some unabashed genre. I needed some dark comedy with a superhero in tights who breaks the fourth wall. Or I needed some serious horror that uses the Protestant hysteria of witches to make a comment for feminism. Or I needed a film that’s a “spiritual successor” to a Kaiju film but has refused to reveal itself and its larger narrative arc thus far. “Deadpool,” “The Witch” and “10 Cloverfield Lane” all seemed like worthy options.
As I mentioned, after wallowing in analysis for close to a month, I decided against “The Witch.” I am sure when I do get around to seeing it, I will be impressed by it, but I didn’t want to have to think too hard. And to be honest, seeing a horror movie alone late at night, in the rain, then having to have to trek from Shattuck Avenue all the way past campus to Dwight Avenue didn’t seem like a sane choice to make. Maybe witches do exist, maybe I would be possessed, maybe I just watch too many movies.
So that left “Deadpool” and “10 Cloverfield Lane.” Yes, “Deadpool” is a modern cultural icon that will surely influence every comic book movie that comes out for the next 10 years, for better or for mostly God-awful worse. Not to be a hater, but am I the only one who is done with the same Marvel movie being released twice a year? OK, I am? Well, this is awkward.
I know I’ll love it though, and I will love Ryan Reynolds, because I mean, just look at that beautiful man. But I missed the film’s opening when the hype was at the zeitgeist. Case closed.
That left the winner, “10 Cloverfield Lane,” which after seeing it, I’m sure will be one of the best movies of 2016, full stop. Seeing it on opening night, in a dark, crowded theater, alone with my thoughts, “10 Cloverfield Lane” reminded me the magic of cinema that I thought I lost.
When I go see a movie, I’ll read reviews from multiple websites, I’ll watch all the trailers and I’ll do as much research as I can to know a general idea of what I’m getting myself into. Actually, at times, it feels as if I know everything about the film before I even get to see it. With “10 Cloverfield Lane,” I did none of that. After one quick look at Metacritic and realizing that critics were raving, all of which said “DON’T KNOW ANYTHING GOING IN,” I was like, “Don’t ruin this for yourself.” And I refused to read a review.
So I knew the bare minimum going in. I knew it had a cast of three excellent, underappreciated actors (John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and John Gallagher, Jr.) set in one setting, supposedly after a catastrophic event and has a faint relation to 2008’s “Cloverfield.”
Thank baby Jesus I didn’t know anything more, because the concept, the tension and the acting are all better than I would have ever imagined. Try to picture 2015’s “Room” mixed with Hitchcock’s “Psycho” mixed with the “Twilight Zone” mixed with Orson Welles’ radio reading of H.G. Wells’ “The War of the Worlds.” Like, WHAT?! Exactly, it shouldn’t work, but it does beautifully.
In the first 10 minutes of the film, I caught myself counting the number of edits, thinking about how the camera angles say something deeper about the narrative and what Winstead’s performance is trying to portray without any dialogue. Then bam, something unexpected happens, and from that point on, I turned my mind off and just sat back with a big smile on my face and enjoyed every damn minute of the movie.
I refuse to give any plot points, which is why this isn’t a review. But I love this movie. It’s a serious film about the evil within humans but borders on science fiction camp. It’s an incredibly well-acted chamber piece, but it knows how to build tension as if it’s a horror film. It’s an adventure film, but stuck within one location. It’s always changing tones and styles, but it all stays together as one hell of an experience. Even if it didn’t have “Cloverfield” in its name, it would be an excellent standalone film. Yet, knowing that this may be a part of a larger franchise, one that after two films seems to promise a drastic shift in each story’s take on monsters, aliens and real boogeymen, call me sold.
“10 Cloverfield Lane” is what has been seriously lacking in my cinema viewing as of late. It knows how to combine all of the elements of film that you would learn in a theory class, then it mixes them with all of the enjoyable elements as to why we all watch movies in the first place. This created one unforgettably fun, unforgettably surprising and unforgettably magical experience. Then again, maybe I just sat back, turned off my mind and learned to love cinema again.
Levi Hill covers film. Contact him at [email protected].