10 Cloverfield Lane

Movie Information

The Story: A young woman awakes from an accident to find herself in an underground bunker where she's told the world above has fallen prey to some kind of cataclysm that makes it uninhabitable. The Lowdown: This sort-of, kissing-cousin, pseudo-sequel to Cloverfield is really two movies joined together with very visible seams. It's not awful, but it's not really something to recommend either.
Score:

Genre: Sci-Fi Horror
Director: Dan Trachtenberg
Starring: John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Gallagher Jr., Douglas M. Griffin, Suzanne Cryer
Rated: PG-13

10

 

There’s no denying that Dan Trachtenberg’s 10 Cloverfield Lane is better than its sort-of ancestor Cloverfield (2008), but then I’ve seen home movies that were better than Cloverfield. What we have here is basically an artificially enlarged Twilight Zone episode — from an “original” and unrelated script that has been retrofitted to tie in with the Cloverfield story in the final reel. And it’s all served up with a lacquer coating of J.J. Abrams’ particular brand of “secrecy,” which is to say that none of the promos supposedly tell you what the film is about. Banana oil. The truth is that, if you’ve seen the trailer, you’ve got a pretty good handle on the story and the kind of movie this is. The tacked-on Cloverfield-iana is little more than the sort of twist you might expect from M. Night Shyamalan — except, of course, that you’ve been primed to expect a link to the earlier movie, so it’s not really a twist.

 

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With or without the Cloverfield business, 10 Cloverfield Lane isn’t a bad movie, merely a predictable and largely mediocre one. It’s a little like Jeff Nichols’ Take Shelter (2011) minus any pretense to artsiness. The setup is pretty basic: Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is in a nicely staged car accident and wakes up on a mattress in a bare room, with a brace on her leg and a chain holding her to the wall. This is not the sort of thing to engender a feeling of safety or good fellowship. As a result, she’s naturally wary of the motives of her benefactor-captor, Howard (John Goodman), who explains he rescued her from the wreck and brought her here. “Here” is a survivalist’s dream bunker — scads of food, electricity, running water, creature comforts, diversions — where they are holed up following some cataclysmic event in the world above. Howard vaguely postulates that it’s some kind chemical or nuclear war, but maintains that they — and a third, self-invited companion, Emmett (John Gallagher Jr., Short Term 12) — are quite safe and can wait out however long it takes for the world to become habitable again.

 

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This aspect of the film is serviceable enough, assuming you have a taste for rather claustrophobic games of cat and mouse. It’s clear from the onset that Howard — right or wrong about the outside world — is, at the very least, mildly deranged. He’s obviously not entirely truthful, and his slightly puritanical view of things — a demented Norman Rockwell-like vision — tends to make him prone to strange outbursts. But then, knowing what kind of thriller we’ve come to see, we already know his outward bonhomie is a deception. And if we don’t, the fact that John Goodman plays Howard much the way he played Karl “Madman” Mundt in Barton Fink (1991) might provide a clue. The major questions are: how long it will be before mayhem ensues; and, of course, what really lies outside. How you’ll feel about the latter is open to question.

Rated PG-13 for thematic material including frightening sequences of threat with some violence, and brief language.

 

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About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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8 thoughts on “10 Cloverfield Lane

  1. Ron Pulliam

    I’ve seen the previews and have pondered why they felt John Goodman was a good choice for the lead. Was he, in your estimation?

    • Ken Hanke

      I can’t offhand think of anyone who would have been better, though that kind of dodges the question. Let’s say he was fine in a movie I will never see again.

    • luluthebeast

      I thought that Goodman was the best part of a mediocre film. I did not like the first film except for a couple of small bits and wonder if they are going to try to tie the two together.

      • T.rex

        It had one of the worst looking creatures ever.

        • luluthebeast

          It kind of looked like it was out of MAD MAGAZINE. I did like the long shot when the fleas (or whatever) were dropping off Mommy and started chasing after the soldiers. Once they got their closeup they became boring as well.

        • Ken Hanke

          Surely no worse looking than the one in the original?

          • Ken Hanke

            Not your bad (whatever that means), but it was incomprehensible.

Comments are closed.