10 Cloverfield Lane
Directed by: Dan Trachtenberg
Run time: 103 minutes
The Lowdown: For a movie that seemingly began its life journey as a taunt little thriller about a woman (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) who leaves her husband only to be run off the road and wakes up chained to a bed in an underground fallout bunker, 10 Cloverfield Lane actually works tremendously well as a blood-relative to the awesome, found-footage monster mash “Cloverfield.”
In fact, for about the first 85 minutes, you will likely not even think twice about how this film is connected to “Cloverfield,” but just you wait. When the reveal comes, it’s a pretty damn good one, and it succeeds not only in delivering a hell-of-a-swerve ending but also gets you salivating at the thought of a legitimate, direct follow-up to its cinematic sibling.
Kudos to John Goodman for delivering an amazing performance as Howard, the is he or isn’t he bat-guano crazy architect of the fallout bunker. Goodman is so good at drawing you in to his fevered belief that life as everyone knows it above ground has been reduced to rubble by either a massive terrorist attack or a possible alien invasion.
And all the credit to director Dan Trachtenberg and writers Josh Campbell, Matthew Stuecken and Oscar-winner Damien Chazelle for crafting something truly original and whole-heartedly intense.
Even something as benign as a dinner seating becomes a literal edge-of-your-seat experience because you simply have no idea what might happen.
This is high-wire-without-a-net filmmaking at its finest.
I loved it. I loved it so much that I was willing to forgive its lone moment of excess during the ridiculously awesome and unexpected climax (no spoilers).
10 Cloverfield Lane deserves to be seen by as many genre fans as possible to justify J.J. Abrams going back to Paramount and demanding the studio let him throw his full support behind a bonafide “Cloverfield” sequel. Clearly, he knows where the story should go. And based on the first film and the last 18 minutes of 10 Cloverfield Lane, there’s so much more left to be told.
The Stuff You Care About:
Hot chicks – Yes.
Nudity – No.
Gore – No.
Drug use – No.
Bad Guys/Killers – John Goodman in full-on bipolar frenzy.
Buy/Rent – Buy it.
Rabid Dogs (Shout! Factory, 100 minutes, Unrated, Blu-Ray): It should come as no surprise that there are, in fact, some cult classics I’ve never seen.
Mario Bava’s “Cani Arrabbiati,” aka “Rabid Dogs,” originally released in 1974 and regarded as Bava’s masterpiece of Italian crime cinema, is one of them.
In fact, it was only after watching Éric Hannezo’s directorial debut, 2015’s Rabid Dogs, that I learned it was a remake of Bava’s film.
I’m telling you this so you know one key, critical piece of information: It is not important that you are familiar with Bava’s original in order to fully enjoy Hannezo’s stunning reimaging.
Rabid Dogs, released in France as “Enragés,” is visually astounding – a technicolor Euro-noir that at times reminded me of “Sin City” with its lush colors and vivid interior photography that literally resembles pulpy comic book panels come to life, at times.
Everything about Rabid Dogs hooked me – from its synth-heavy score to its lurid and fascinating third-act introduction of a bizarre festival celebration to its final gut-punch twist, which I did not see coming.
I’ve now gone and read other reviews that discredit what Hannezo accomplished, saying it pales to the original. But here’s the thing – if you’ve never seen the original, who cares? This is the type of edgy import entertainment that American audiences should be demanding. It’s well-acted, perfectly paced and artistically superb. BVB highly recommends you go seek it out.
Gridlocked (Magnolia Pictures, 113 minutes, R, Blu-Ray): The box art for Gridlocked touts this direct-to-home video release as “one of the best action movies of the year.” Lord, help us, if that’s true. It’s a serviceable shoot-‘em-up with a high body count and a cast of genre veterans, but there’s way too many inconsistencies, flimsy backstories and narrative cohesion to truly recommend this to diehard action fans.
London Has Fallen (Universal, 99 minutes, R, Blu-Ray): Talk about a weak follow-up. Back in 2013, action fans were treated to a pair of White House thrillers. The expected champ, “White House Down,” starring Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx, bombed. The underdog, “Olympus Has Fallen,” delivered a much-needed career kick for Gerard Butler. In the sequel, London Has Fallen, Butler is back as Secret Service Agent Mike Banning and he’s still protecting Aaron Eckhart’s President Asher. This time, the pair arrive in London for the funeral of an international dignitary only to have all hell break loose within minutes of arriving at the church. In “Olympus…,” Butler’s character was disgraced and seeking redemption following the death of Asher’s wife. It was a gritty, at-times-too-serious action flick that surprisingly worked. For some unknown reason, the creative forces behind the sleeper surprise opted to go in a totally different direction for the follow-up. They brought in a new director, Babak Najafi, who directed the second installment of the “Easy Money” franchise, but returning screenwriter Creighton Rothenberger opted to play up the comradery between Banning and Asher, giving Butler way too much freedom to quip his way through an increasingly ridiculous series of terrorist attacks while single-handedly bringing down an entire foreign militia. It’s too cavalier, flaunting its jingoism at every turn, and ultimately falls flat as both a second serving to a popular first film and as a popcorn action fest.
Sorceress: Uncensored Director Approved Edition (Synapse Films, 89 minutes, Unrated, Blu-Ray): It’s hard to really criticize a movie that literally opens with a completely naked Julie Strain as an evil witch casting a spell. And the boob count just grows from there. Jim Wynorski’s softcore opus, originally released as “Temptress,” also stars Linda Blair and the great Michael Parks, but you’re not gonna watch this one for the acting. Oh no. Even by 1995 standards, Sorceress is ingenious in the ways Wynorski and writer Mark Thomas McGee concoct to disrobe their cast as often as possible. Flashbacks, dream sequences, real-time – it doesn’t matter. People just get naked willy-nilly throughout. It’s like an extended episode of Nudist Community Coven. Go, watch, now.
The X-Files: The Event Series (Fox, 270 minutes, Unrated, Blu-Ray): Fans across the globe rejoiced when Fox announced it was bringing back The X-Files for a limited, six-episode “event series” in early 2016. Joining creator Chris Carter were both David Duchovny as Fox Mulder and Gillian Anderson as Dana Scully, along with a host of cameos and other series stars like Mitch Pileggi as FBI Director Walter Skinner.
Nostalgia and fan goodwill can only get you so far, however. The bookend episodes, “My Struggle” and “My Struggle II,” both written by Carter, felt rushed and overstuffed with conspiracy theories and a jaw-dropping, WTH ending that left many longtime fans shaking their heads in disbelief.
But two of the six episodes showcased why the series remains so beloved, more than two decades after its TV debut.
“Mulder & Scully Meet the Were-Monster” is one of the all-time best X-Files episodes ever delivered. It perfectly encapsulates everything about the show, and its core characters, that made the series a truly defining moment in television.
And “Babylon,” which introduced an alternate version of Mulder and Scully in the form of two younger FBI agents, which was viewed by many as a backdoor way to set up a new generation of X-Files with two new characters, still managed to showcase why the central dynamic between eternal skeptic Scully and core believer Mulder fascinated and thrilled fans during the show’s initial nine-season run.
Not to be Overlooked:
The Other Side of the Door (Fox, 96 minutes, R, Blu-Ray): There’s a lot to recommend about The Other Side of the Door, and there are a few quibbles, as well.
But the latest horror movie produced by Alexandre Aja (“High Tension,” “Horns”) is an interesting if somewhat flawed, ghost story that gets excellent mileage out of its exotic locale and its superb creature effects.
The biggest advantage going for “The Other Side…” is its setting in India, a beautiful country rarely featured as a backdrop. Writer-director Johannes Roberts makes great use of both the country’s densely-packed urban corridors and its lush jungle terrain. Roberts also gets kudos for utilizing Indian actress Suchitra Pillai as Piki, the house mother and nanny to American couple Maria (Sarah Wayne Callies) and Michael (Jeremy Sisto).
As the bridge to Indian mysticism and folklore, Piki unfortunately introduces Maria to an ancient temple where people can venture to speak one last time to a loved one tragically taken too soon. The only condition (and there’s always that one condition) is that the person seeking closure cannot, under any circumstances, open the temple door to see their lost loved one, no matter what they hear through the door.
In Maria’s case, this proves too much to ask. She is crippled with guilt after a tense and well-executed flashback shows how the mother of two was forced to make the worst possible decision following a freak accident. Maria’s decision spells dooms for her son, Oliver. And her grief and inability to shake her fateful decision sets in motion the central events of the film.
Essentially, The Other Side of the Door, owes a lot to Stephen King’s “Pet Semetary,” both in structure and context. Both properties deal with a grieving parent’s decision to do whatever is necessary to reunite with a lost child. And both show the awful consequences of that decision.
Where Roberts’ movie falters, though, is at its most critical moments. Roberts relies too heavily on jump scares and dream sequences. As a viewer, you eventually become numb every time something scary is about to happen because too often the scary isn’t real but only imagined.
Maria also makes for a difficult heroine to get behind. Her guilt manifests itself in selfish moments, and she ultimately puts her entire family in grave danger when she should have instead considered the ramifications of lying and withholding critical information.
While I really liked Piki as a character, I wanted more from her. I wanted Roberts to allow Pillai a better opportunity for her character to explain the ancient temple and its race of eerie, mud-coated protectors who eventually begin stalking Maria once she, ahem, opens the door. Piki’s fate, as the person who introduces Maria to the ancient legend and its rules, also is handled mostly off-screen, which was odd for an R-rated horror movie, and serves as a missed opportunity to further connect in real-time to the audience to deepen our investment in what happens to the family as a result of Maria’s choice.
The best and most original concept in “The Other Side…” is definitely its chief creature, a golem-like angel of death whose hands are almost always pressed tightly to its face, which mercilessly haunts Maria through a series of dream sequences until its final, stellar reveal. The creature rivals some of the best concepts designed by Guillermo del Toro in his Spanish-language horror films, and would make for an awesome collectible figure for horror fans.
Ultimately, The Other Side of the Door is a good ghost story that could have been great with a few minor tweaks. It’s a fun little fright flick that you should enjoy with the lights turned down low. Just remember, no matter what you hear, under no circumstances, should you ever open the door.
New in Theaters and Video-On-Demand:
It’s So Easy and Other Lies (XLrator Media, Unrated, VOD): This authorized music documentary has been receiving stellar reviews for chronicling Duff McKagen, founding member and bassist for Guns N’ Roses, as he experiences the highs and lows of rock and roll hedonism.
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