After perusing the depressingly abysmal listings for the local theaters, I finally decided to check out “10 Cloverfield Lane,” the new thriller starring John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and John Gallagher Jr. I’ve always liked Goodman, and I enjoy a good chiller every now and again.
And so it was with eager anticipation that I took my seat to wait through countless ads for everything from cars to soft drinks and what seemed like 100 trailers, all of which contained massive explosions, for the main feature to begin. By the way, my faithful companion for watching scary movies is my daughter, Stephanie, and in case you’re interested, two drinks and a bag of popcorn cost me $21.50. But on to the show.
As the film begins, we find a distraught Michelle (Winstead), who has just had an argument with her fiancé. She leaves her engagement ring at home and gets into her car for a drive. We have no idea where she’s going, but it doesn’t really make any difference because before she gets very far, something hits her automobile. We see her car upside down, and the next thing we know, Michelle wakes up in a small room handcuffed to a bed.
Naturally she’s frightened and tries desperately to free herself, but she’s unsuccessful. Finally she hears footsteps coming down the stairs from the other side of the steel door in the room, and then the door opens, and a huge man confronts her. He tells her that his name is Howard (Goodman) and that he found her alongside the road. He also says he saved her life because there has been an “attack,” and everyone else is dead.
Michelle ultimately learns that she is in a bunker Howard built in anticipation of just such an attack. The place is equipped with all the comforts of home, and when Howard lets Michelle out of her room, she discovers there is one other person in the bunker. He’s a young man named Emmett (Gallagher Jr.), and he tells Michelle that he is there voluntarily because he didn’t want to die in the attack.
After Michelle finally gets it through her head that Howard didn’t kidnap her, she relaxes a bit, but she soon learns that Howard has a very short fuse and a violent temper. He’s fine as long as she and Emmett do what he tells them, but if either of them says or does anything he doesn’t like, he loses it. Much of the suspense in the film involves trying to figure out whether Howard is a good guy or a complete wacko.
As the story progresses, the three people kind of settle in and begin to get along, but the aura of mystery about Howard hovers over everything. He talks about his daughter, but he offers no real proof that has one except for a picture that is questionable. And despite his insistence that the air outside is deadly, Michelle still has trouble believing this and continues to search for a way out.
Without going into specific details, let’s say that this film succeeds in delivering a number of very effective tense and suspenseful moments. It keeps us constantly guessing, and this adds to the overall mystery because it raises so many unanswered questions. Is Howard crazy, or isn’t he? Was there really an attack? Does Howard really have a daughter?
Goodman turns in a most impressive performance as the enigmatic Howard. We are never quite sure how he is going to react from one moment to the next. I usually think of him as a comedic actor, but he shows a real flair for the dramatic in this film.
I had never seen either Gallagher Jr., or Winstead in a film, but both of them were quite believable in their respective parts, and Winstead is the one who really carries the movie because she is the victim. She convincingly runs the whole gamut of emotions throughout the picture, and she succeeds in making us care about her character.
As I watched this film, I was trying to decide what kind of a final score to give it. Here’s the way the process unfolded. After the accident when Michelle awakens to find herself a possible abduction victim, it was looking like a seven because it did grab my attention.
But the score jumped up to an eight when Howard appears and explains why he has brought Michelle to his bunker. Now some serious suspense came into play. Is Howard really a good Samaritan, or is he a perverted mass murderer? How did he just happen to find Michelle?
As the story continued to develop, the film boasts some genuine edge-of-your seat moments involving Howard and Michelle, but I’ll say no more about them other than that at this point the score of the film hovered between eight and nine.
AND THEN IT HAPPENED! The denouement arrived and completely destroyed everything. The final minutes of this film are so ridiculous, hokey, preposterous, silly, absurd, inferior, and all other forms of totally disappointing that all they elicit is a gigantic WTF!
So here’s the final word on “10 Cloverfield Lane.” It earns a final score of eight until the conclusion when the score plummets to a zero. Add them together, divide by two, and the movie’s final score is a terribly disappointing four. And I wish I could get back both the time I wasted in the theater and the $21.50 I spent on refreshments.