Overlord (2018)

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Now this may not be the fourth instalment in the ‘Cloverfield’ world as people had speculated when word got around that J.J Abrams was behind this feature, but that’s truly for the best because this is a stonking great stand-alone movie that blows the roof off with tremendous energy and B-movie revelry.

It’s the day before D-Day and a squadron have orders to reach a church in a French village and destroy a German planted radio tower. A few of the men survive and band together, Private Boyce (Jovan Adepo) heads out and on his wanderings he uncovers a deadly secret concocted by a sinister doctor, who is carrying out a series of tests to produce a serum which could gift the Nazis some soldiers that can’t die.

This is only the second full length film to come from Australian director Julius Avery but it’s a blistering delight. The first steps of ‘Overlord’ are much more gripping and dramatic than you’d expect. The whole WW2 angle and the mission that these soldiers are given are dealt with by Avery with fantastic explosions of fear stemming from German-occupied France and amongst this you can find some softer moments in the script as the comradery grows and the humour rounds out the edges.

What works so well is the way the movie sort of reveals its true intentions as a zombie film, at first glance a spectator who’d seen no trailer, poster or any information would see the first half an hour as a solid war movie and it is. There is great mystery building amongst the horrors of this occupation, which culminates in a horror of a very different kind.

Once the gritty style of the war moves into the more gross out zombie-horror section you can expect large dollops of bloody prosthetics and gory VFX that might not shock but it certainly grabs the attention and pulls you into this extremely visceral genre piece. It is true to say that along the way the characters we follow are two-dimensional and their journeys are fairly predictable but these paper thin characteristics aren’t trying and in fact, the poor decision making and off character choices are very much the bread and butter of horrors so it can be forgiven.

There is a huge amount of fun to be had whilst watching ‘Overlord’, the entire feature may be brash but it’s brilliantly enjoyable and it feels like some science fuelled nightmare with moody Call of Duty visuals and twisted nastiness to boot.

8/10

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The Cloverfield Paradox (2018)

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Dropped like something out of the sky; here comes a game-changer in terms of movie marketing and distribution, but that aside is this a good ‘Cloverfield’ movie?

Set in our future and aboard the Cloverfield Station are a crew from various countries who are hoping to perfect a particle accelerator; which could solve the energy crisis on Earth. As their mission finally catches a break, it seems not everything is good. The team become stranded, meanwhile life back on Earth isn’t looking safe and sound either.

So, after a few months of whisperings and internet talk about a new feature in the ‘Cloverfield’ series, we’re finally greeted with this big surprise release. It was due last year and then apparently again for an April 2018 cinematic date under the name ‘God Particle’ from Paramount Pictures, but as the sporting spectacle of the Super Bowl reached it’s halftime parade of expensive ads and new trailers, a teaser for this very movie was shown. Not long after the game itself the film was up on Netflix for all (subscribers) to see.

This I must admit is a bold move to make and pretty special to keep something under wraps. Having a $45 million movie on your hands and to maintain its secrecy and avoid the usual over hype of many trailers and TV spots is a fantastic achievement, if not one that disappoints me slightly because it’s final destination means it can’t be seen on the big screen. It’s a great film visually and the sci-fi element is explored quite well through the vacuum of space and a sleek revolving spaceship but Paramount mustn’t have had high expectations to forgo a cinema roll-out and leave Netflix to pick up the rights. This can be felt in a film that seems to have grown out of control to fit within the ‘Cloverfield’ universe.

It’s a mildly slow-burner of a science fiction to watch, there’s neat moments of burrowing unease as things start to go wrong; as they always do in these kinds of films. The back and forth between space and Earth feels like the parts where they re-wrote to segue in the movie monster tie-in and general spots do feel like a scrambled mess to keep that storytelling building.

Saying this, the dynamic of the crew is good and the moments of error, confusion and danger aboard the spacecraft are entertaining. I wouldn’t say exciting or wholly dramatic but they work well and keep the film going along nicely too. The main interest for me was in the construct of the shifting paradox and the problems arising from there, which is explored with both thrills and humour but not as deep as perhaps it may have delved. I feel one reason the film isn’t as successful as it could be is down to the distracting technique of its release and expecting the ‘Cloverfield’ monster/arc to keep rearing up.

’10 Cloverfield Lane’ was one of my favourite films from 2016 because it tied in the monster series nicely and felt like a creepily separate thriller at the same time. This is still a good film but nowhere near as great. It’s a film that perhaps, thanks to its many delays and streaming resting place, feels more like a somewhat enjoyable online flick but not a dazzling or suspenseful one.

5.5/10

 

10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)

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A surprise film of this year, for when the trailer was unexpectedly dropped, I and I could imagine, many other people were taken aback by this secret project. Gladly the trails spoil nothing and therefore make this thriller even more special. It’s a fantastically dark exploration of confinement for a 12A rating and monster movie fans of the first film still get their kicks.

Clothes designer Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) ends up in an accident and then finds herself in a fully equipped fallout bunker. She’s looked after and/or terrorised by Howard (John Goodman) who has also brought in Emmett (John Gallagher, Jr.) in hope that the three of them can avoid his fears of the contaminated world outside.

I really don’t want to go any further than that for what happens as knowing little makes the movie a much more engaging mysterious experience. Clearly there’s some predictions to be placed at it comes in the same universe as ‘Cloverfield’ from 2008, so you will be seeing monsters but the fantastic quality about this spiritual tangent to the original handy-cam film is that it’s so different in tone and look.

Dan Trachtenberg directs with a knowing craft of the thriller genre and truly gives this movie an unnerving build-up. The constant close-ups add weight to the claustrophobic location, the little flourishes of Howard’s décor in the bunker add character and unease to what may happen. Things that go wrong never become tiresome but do their part in racking up the sweats as you hope Michelle can find her way out of the problem. As a director he shows how a monster movie can be more subdued and with a mostly 3 cast line up, this gives hope to a new future in dramatic storytelling.

From producer J.J Abrams we get that gnawing sense of trouble because of what we know from the ’08 movie. Though the monster moments in this are thrilling and work for the growing female power of Michelle, I must say I preferred all the elements of everything that came before. The music, the set, the conversations and comic moments from guessing games that tingle with sinister connotations to strained bondings, everything feels deeper and full of fear.

This is no ‘Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’ bunk up, the film is effortlessly tense and darker than you may think it could be. Of course I won’t say what happens but lots of wonderfully scripted sequences flash out of the gates, rattling you back into your seats and making you stumble to catch your breath. You, if you like the film that is, do root for Michelle as the lead and in a way, you buy into the other characters as well, whether they’re bad or good, you can believe their goals.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead is a brilliant final girl in films we’ve seen before and she comes along with aspects of that stereotype but is a much stronger and smarter heroine which is great to watch. Her designer background plays a part and her wiles keep her going all the way through, impeccably delivered by a capable actress. John Goodman is monstrously magnificent from start to finish, he plays both sides of the field so well that you don’t ever know for sure until near the end what kind of guy he is. John Gallagher, Jr. plays the guy in the middle really well, more than just a spare part, his presence gets put in the spotlight and he gives a needed comic lightness to one of the characters embroiled in the bunker. The trio bounce off each other superbly.

For any ‘Cloverfield’ fans or lovers of neatly packaged thrillers then I recommend you to get straight out and witness this slick and suspenseful feature. You’re always guessing, always worrying and always always enjoying the well directed and acted moments that come flying round the corner.

8/10