As a gamer I am not stranger to hype. Developers and publishers spend years promoting a game before it is even finished, building up a title so hard one becomes consumed in the prospect when they know nothing about it. It is only after the game comes out that we realize the hype was all talk and how wrong we were to buy into it. Watch Dogs, Destiny, Titanfall, and Evolve were all panned to a point we fooled ourselves into thinking they were incredible until they became a footnote mere months later.
In film promotion, the best way to build hype is to say nothing, creating a mystery we cannot help but solve. This can be done by hiding footage in trailers, making your cast and crew sign NDAs, and preventing leaks in the press. To JJ Abrams, this is known as the Mystery Box, a tactic he has used since Lost. Force Awakens garnered popularity not only because it was Star Wars, but also because there was so little information leading up to its release. Even after it was over people are anxious to find out what will happen in the sequel. I think that is why 10 Cloverfield Lane has received such attention; it has a familiar name, yet it appears to be something else entirely, and we have to see it to discover what it all means. Was the pay off meaningful or was I tricked like those who bought The Order 1886?
After waking up from a car accident Michelle, played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead, finds herself in an underground bunker with Howard, played by John Goodman, who tells her everyone above is dead from an unknown attack. Slowly she begins to doubt his sanity and questions what is really going on.
Obviously I cannot spoil the big reveal. It is standard practice to avoid giving away endings unless I hated the movie and do not care. What I can say is that once the mystery is solved, it becomes a different film entirely.
In Cloverfield Lane, the mystery is a chief component in how it works as a suspense thriller. Just as you have no idea what is going on, Michelle and Emmet, played by John Gallagher Jr, are in the dark as to whom Howard really is. From the outset he is quick to anger, paranoid, and obviously hiding something. Then you have the mystery and it becomes a question of would you rather live with a crazy person, or take your chances outside? The fact neither the characters nor audience have a clue and want answers ratchets up the tension as they figure a way out of their predicament with mounting risk.
That is the essence of suspense.
The movie features three actors and they were all fantastic and perfectly cast with seamless chemistry. Goodman can read the phonebook and earn an Oscar. He perpetuates the suspense by hiding what he is with a calm and collect exterior on the verge of implosion. Winstead did not need dialog to pull her weight as the emotional toil and fear was written all over her face. Gallagher had a minor part, but he did a great job as a naïve simpleton trying to do what is right in the face of danger.
10 Cloverfield Lane is a simple story about people trapped in a confined space. For its suspense and the way it builds tension makes it worth a watch. The mystery at the end is icing on the cake as it adds a whole other dimension to the situation that you did not expect. It presents a broader scenario that rewards you for sticking around and you should definitely give it a look.