"NO! NO! No, no! No! Don't open that door! You're going to get all of us killed!"- Howard
A young woman, Michelle, wakes after a car accident to find herself chained to a bed in an underground bunker. Naturally she is somewhat distressed but finds that bunker head honcho Howard is protecting her and Emmett, the only other bunker resident, from the fall out above supposedly caused by a chemical weapon attack by as yet unknown perpetrators. So okay Howard is fulfilling a heroic self-cast role, but is everything as it seems?
As the days pass Michelle and Emmett come to the realisation that Howard might just have a few Roos loose in the top paddock, at the very least he is highly unstable. Michelle tries to escape through the bunker door but is stop when she is confronted by a women, visibly suffering from chemical burns, through the small window in the door. Maybe Howard is telling the truth, but what is the real story about his "daughter", and that truck outside looks very familiar, as in car accident familiar. As things escalate to complete pear shaped mayhem Michelle launches an audacious bid for freedom and discovers the truth isn't exactly what any of them had in mind. A gripping psychological drama ensues that to a certain degree is let down by the conclusion. Ready to do deeper underground to discover what might be lurking in the dark?
Okay before delving into the meaty goodness of this better than average movie lets clear the air on one of the major issues with 10 Cloverfield Lane, namely the supposed tie in with found footage epic Cloverfield. Lane had been sitting around on Studio shelves for some time due to the Suits not being entirely sure they were onto a winner, hey quality cinema be damned we're talking getting the mouth breathers in to the cinemas. The story goes that to get the movie out they needed something to excite potential movie goers, uhmm, the actual movie, nope a tie in to a previous heavy hitter. Thankfully they didn't have the rights to the Alien franchise else we would have had Xenomorphs going buck naked crazy, but they did have the rights to the Cloverfield name, ergo Lane got pushed as a sequel to the big monster bash. Now okay I can dig that, sort of, but Execs were aware right that Cloverfield died in the arse after an initial opening weekend of shock and awe? Lane to a certain degree was hampered by the association, as well, not everyone outside the nerds were exactly excited by Cloverfield. Still why not shill the rubes, hell they have been doing it repeatedly with progressively worse Superhero movies for a few years now. I didn't bother catching this one at the cinema due to the association, which is a shame really as Lane is an above average flick, and I wasn't alone given the box office results the movie achieved.
That being said the movie itself is pretty solid overall with very little in the way of weaknesses to void your viewing pleasure. Taken as what is should have been released as, a standalone psychological horror flick, then you can't go wrong. We're talking decent scripting, an above level characterisation, and a plot that while not delivering too much in shock twists keeps things interesting right until the final block when it loses the focus and goes ape crap crazy in trying to tie in to Cloverfield.
Considering the majority of the movie's runtime is spent underground in a claustrophobic bunker there's enough meat on the scripting bones to keep the audience wide eyed and fluffy tailed. Primarily through the first couple of acts we are concerned with whether or not Howard is a psychopath with dark designs on Michelle. Once that is answered, there's a subplot going down that might point to Howard doing what he does regardless of external influences, Michelle still finds the situation dangerous and regardless of external threats decides exiting Dodge would be an awesome course of action. So in essence we have a mystery to unravel involving Howard's current state of mind, a prison escape caper, and a possible invasion going down external to the bunker. This movie is fairly jam packed while focusing squarely on the characters and their reactions.
Coming out of the ball pen John Goodman (Howard) delivers perhaps his best ever performance as firstly a character we are unsure about and then with a solid psychopath turn. The Writers have built a solid background for Howard, don't belabour the major points, and Goodman takes up the requirements with relish. Amply backing up the big fella is Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Michelle) who presents a typical female victim in a horror movie with a strong survival streak. Winstead ladles on the vulnerability and then the icy resolved as the plot demands, ensuring we're going to be lapping up anything she does in the future. John Gallagher Jr (Emmett) has limited screen time but for sure I was noting the name for future reference, dude needs a lead role folks, bring that movie on.
While the plot for this one toys with a few subplots, just what exactly happened in Howard's past, director Dan Trachtenberg isn't overly getting caught up in side paths and sticks pretty much to the main game. The movie romps along like a greyhound without losing steam and will have you glued to the screen as things develop. As previously indicated there's not a huge amount going down in terms of action, but Trachtenberg keeps the tension flowing as things get increasingly uncomfortably in the bunker. For about 90% of the movie I was on board and rocking to the beat, then the final twist came at me and welcome to major face palming. Everything built to get to the twist simply dissolves into mush as Trachtenberg throws a development out of left field which doesn't match the sheer psychological tension of what we have seen previously. Trois disappointed folks, not sure what I expected to happened at the end of the movie, but for sure it wasn't this.
Now okay I've mentioned that I thought the switch hitting of making this one a pseudo sequel to Cloverfield was marketing bollocks aimed at pushing a movie that didn't really need pushing in that manner, but it does open some interesting possibilities. Besides the possible further adventures of Michelle there is the possibility of further movies expanding on the Cloverfield universe by viewing events from different viewpoints. In 2017 we are getting God Particle which may or may not be a further investigation of what is happening in the Cloverfield hood, but guess that comes down to marketing primarily. Fingers crossed the Studio don't destroy this franchise by dilution but since when has a Studio ever really built something solid on the bedrock of a first movie that intrigued the hell out of us? I'm not saying that Cloverfield is the best movie ever made, fair from it I personally think it is one of the more overrated movies in the horror Parthenon, but there is the faint hope that with decent writers and good direction we might get something interesting.
We may be in 2017 but I'm still happy enough to get caught up with the 2016 release back catalogue, we're talking some mighty fine releases underlying resurgence in the dark genre through recent years. 10 Cloverfield Lane while not the best movie of the year had me grinning from ear to ear. Forget the forced ties to the Cloverfield universe and the final couple of scenes, this is solid movie making that comes highly recommended. If you like your horror deeply embedded in the psychological then go deeper underground with 10 Cloverfield Lane, it might not have giant monsters but it does have a larger than life John Goodman.