“Ok, so John Goodman, Ramona Flowers, and a redneck walk into an apocalypse bunker,” sounds like the set-up for a really weird bad joke, right? Wrong.
It’s actually the premise of the new psychological thriller, “10 Cloverfield Lane”.
This film is a spiritual successor to the critically acclaimed 2008 found-footage horror flick, “Cloverfield”.
The found-footage aspect was—thankfully for the well being of all of our collective stomachs—dropped entirely.
Instead, viewers are presented with slick, traditional Hollywood cinematography, courtesy of a producer credit from “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” mega-director J. J. Abrams.
The film opens with Michelle, a late twenty-something having just woken up after surviving a car crash.
She discovers that she is chained to the wall in what appears to be a holding cell belonging to any of the famous horror serial killers (pick your favorite).
However, it is soon revealed that the cell is actually a room located in an apocalypse bunker owned by a somewhat kind, yet mentally unstable man named Howard, played by a perfectly cast John Goodman.
A local farm boy named Emmett also joins the pair.
Howard and Emmett inform Michelle that there has been an apocalyptic nuclear attack, leaving the air completely contaminated, requiring them to remain in the bunker for at least two years.
After a few weeks however, Howard’s already bizarre behavior turns downright psychotic.
Michelle and Emmett decide to work together to escape, but the question still lingers: Which is more dangerous, Howard or whatever might be waiting for them outside the bunker?
Michelle is intelligent, tough, and never self-pitying, making her an incredibly likeable protagonist.
She is played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who is most notable for her portrayal of Ramona Flowers in the film adaptation of “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World”.
Winstead brings a gritty toughness to the role, but makes sure to emphasize the more human aspects of Michelle’s character, such as her longing to see her family, throughout her performance.
However, Goodman is the highlight here, bringing a vulnerable sweetness to an otherwise horrifying madman.
If there is any fault to be found within the claustrophobic, subterranean walls of 10 Cloverfield Lane, it is the film’s pacing.
The film switches moods, and even genres, frantically all leading up to a frankly ridiculous and over-the-top ending, but the abrupt pacing isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
If anything, the staccato-like jumps in tone might help the film more than hinder it.
If “10 Cloverfield Lane” is anything, it is a film that plays with its viewers’ expectations.
The film begins as a standard horror flick, then morphs into a psychological thriller, and then takes an unexpected sharp left into crazy town for the film’s final act.
I won’t spoil the twist ending, which, to director Dan Trachtenberg’s credit, comes seemingly out of nowhere, despite the subtle lines of dialogue sprinkled in throughout hinting at the outcome.
The film masquerades as many different genres throughout its one hour and 43-minute runtime, which truly demonstrates the unique genius behind the film’s structure.
It sets up the audience’s expectations then pulls the rug out from under them multiple times, continually raising the stakes.
And after all, isn’t that what a good thriller’s supposed to do?
“10 Cloverfield Lane” is an original and clever thrill ride you definitely don’t want to miss.