What an interesting psychological thrill ride here in 10 Cloverfield Lane. The tagline “Monsters Come in Many Forms” is also a very appropriate descriptor, as there are monsters who are not monsters and monsters who are not monsters who are monsters. There’s also a tiny cast, there’s only three actors involved in most of the movie, a fourth for a few minutes and a fifth who is only a very brief voice (Bradley Cooper, incidentally).
The core of the movie revolves around Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), who is involved in an accident and wakes up locked in a bunker with Howard Shambler (John Goodman) and Emmitt DeWitt (John Gallagher Jr.). According to Howard, he rescued Michelle after her accident and brought her to his underground bunker to save her from an unknown catastrophic event that has made the world above uninhabitable. Emmitt also showed up at the bunker, having helped Howard build the place previously and this knowing of it’s existence when things in the world started to fall apart. Howard isn’t sure if it’s aliens or nuclear fallout or just invading armies, but he knows things are not safe up above.
As the plot rolls on, things end up possibly not being too safe inside the bunker either, and is the outside world actually a radioactive alien infested dead zone? Twists and turns to keep you guessing all the way to the end here. The real flaw of the movie is that it’s the “Spiritual Successor” to the movie Cloverfield, and so if you know anything about Cloverfield, you kind of already have some idea of some of the truths this movie tries so hard to keep a secret.
The whole cast does an exceptional job here, especially John Goodman, who does a great job with being slightly slow and a little creepy while doing his best to just be the savior he thinks he is to Emmitt and Michelle. It’s clear he’s not quite right in the head right from the start, just how not right is part of what keeps you wondering the whole time of his true motivations.
It’s a pretty good movie that I enjoyed a lot more than I expected. It’s not quite a horror movie, more suspense, though it felt like it was somewhat billed as a horror film. It’s also relatively clean with it’s PG-13 rating.
Spoiler-tastic thoughts beyond so be warned…
The film starts with some brief set up for Michelle. She’s shown talking on a phone (silently), crying, packing, and walking out the door. Only when she leaves her ring do we get the idea that she’s leaving her fiancé, for whatever reason. She’s shown driving for a while, before suddenly being run into and crashing.
Then the real plot begins. I don’t really want to do a blow by blow here but I do want to touch on some of the highlights…
Like I said above, the biggest weakness is, that this is the successor to Cloverfield. It’s not a direct sequel, it’s sort of a side movie that takes place within the same universe. Cloverfield is about a giant alien monster. So right off the bat, we already know, there is a real threat outside, and it’s aliens. The movie tries pretty hard to imply that there could be different threats, or even no threat, which kind of ruins some of the suspense and twists. Originally, this movie was a different movie called The Cellar that was stick in a bit of development hell and going nowhere, then it was adapted to be a Cloverfield movie. I have no idea what the original end would have been, it may have been totally different.
Going on the guise of now knowing, the movie does an excellent job of keeping the viewer second guessing the motivations of Howard, the would be savior. He’s creepy to start with, he’s played up as being a bit “slow” or just backwards, which helps his creepy factor. Michelle learns that he was the one who ran her off the road, oh man, more creepy, but then later he mentions it was an accident because he was in a hurry to get to his bunker and he felt guilty.
After we start to trust him we get even more twists behind the identity of his deceased daughter, which evolves more as it’s implied that Howard doesn’t see Michelle as anything more than a little girl to protect, despite that she is clearly an adult woman.
Then there is Emmett, who constantly trusts and distrusts Howard at the same time, and Michelle grows to trust more and more. I kind of expected there to be some twist where Emmitt was Howard’s son or something and he was manipulating both of them.
Despite knowing the ending twist, once Michelle finally escapes, the actual events still were pretty great. Because, surprise! It’s aliens, and they aren’t friendly, and maybe being John Goodman’s surrogate daughter wasn’t such a bad deal after all. Except she manages to out smart the aliens hanging around.
The film ends with Michelle hearing a call for help on the radio, and she heads off to answer in Houston. Given the way these films have been “connected” in no way really, and the description for the third movie in development, I doubt anything will come from this set up, but it’s still a nice little twist on the end of the back and forth.