I think no one ever really wanted (or needed) a sequel to Matt Reeves’ Cloverfield (from 2008). It's just one of those things that don't feel necessary in life. While quite successful, there is little more to achieve in a "found footage" format. Even though the scale of it was enormous compared to the flood of lame horror films that were flooding the market, it's not something that needed further explanation. Fortunately, the sequel titled 10 Cloverfield Lane was never to follow same approach and instead created a much more traditional drama with a few actors and limited space. It definitely paid off - box office figures are strong and critics rave about it. So it might have been a good idea after all.
The original Cloverfield didn't have an original score, save for a Godzilla-like end credit suite from Michael Giacchino. This sequel was not to follow the same path and Bear McCreary was hired to finally gets his big film break. Previously, he was working on countless television shows including Agents of SHIELD and Battlestar Galactica… with a few lesser known feature films in between. But 10 Cloverfield Lane is a prime title in his output and he certainly made the most out of his situation. Curiously, he decided to assemble three ensembles for this project: a full symphony orchestra, another large string section, and a string quartet. Fan-favourite Star Trek blaster beam instrument is also making an appearance.
‘Michelle’ opens with an anxious main theme played by a string quartet. It is slightly reminiscent Genesis theme from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan by the late James Horner (which he then reused in countless other scores). The entire 6-minute track is pretty much an elaboration on this recurring idea, with different shades and moods being explored. The entire first half of soundtrack album is very a slow-burn development of this recurring material. There is even a lullaby variation in ‘Two Stories’. Given its suspenseful nature, this build up can be a bit slow for some listeners. The occasional thriller-like passages here and there help to spice it up a little (‘The Concrete Cell’). In the middle portions of ‘Howard’, we get to hear some more innocent wondrous music to break from the ever-present darkness.
Starting with ‘Valencia’, the album becomes more exciting and fast paced. McCreary starts heading towards a satisfying dramatic climax that mixes fine influences from all across the film score world - James Newton Howard’s scores to M Night Shyamalan’s films and Jerry Goldsmith’s thriller scores come to mind. 'The New Michelle' goes from lovely wondrous underscore to tense and obsessive material, and concludes this story on an anxious and unresolved note. Fortunately, we also have ‘10 Cloverfield Lane’ which brings things to really strong musical climax where all the elements come together in one neat 6-minute suite.
McCreary finds ways to blend the classic suspense techniques of cinema old with his contemporary sensibilities thus appealing both to fans of Bernard Herrmann and younger film music crowd. Soundtrack album album might feel a bit slow at first but proves to be more than sum of its part by the time it ends. There is a coherent narrative to the 63-minute programme that is rare to come by these days. This talented composer successfully launches his mainstream movie career with a surprisingly satisfying and well-accomplished score for an surprisingly successful film.
10 Cloverfield Lane is out now from Sparks & Shadows