Review: 10 Cloverfield Lane – Misery meets … monsters?

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10 Cloverfield LaneThis distant cousin to the 2008’s Cloverfield monster movie came out of left field a few weeks back, when it’s enticing teaser was unexpectedly dropped (like a creepy kaiju out of the sky) by the movie’s wunderkind producer, J.J. Abrams.

Usually, when a film like this is unceremoniously released to the world – especially at this time of year – it’s not a good sign of the movie’s quality or the studio’s confidence. But now, having seen the film, it’s easy to understand why Abrams and cohorts kept this incredible flick so secretive.

It’s a weird cross between Misery and…well…the less you know about it the better; but 10 Cloverfield Lane is probably the best film I’ve seen so far this year. It’s funny, smart, original and it scarred the bejesus out of me on more than one occasion.

In a (spoiler-free as possible) nutshell: The first several minutes of the sorry are told with almost no dialogue as a young woman, Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), breaks up with her fiancé and is headed out of town when she has a terrible car accident. She wakes up in a nasty looking room in a situation that has the potential to be a Saw torture arrangement of some sort – but is it?

Michelle’s captor/saviour is Howard (John Goodman), an overweight and nerdy Navy veteran and “doomsday prepper” who, as he tells Michelle, happened to come across her auto accident just as America suffered a mysterious NBC (nuclear, biological, chemical) attack from terrorists, or Russia, or…some other source.

The bomb shelter it’s also occupied by Emmet (John Gallagher Jr.), a local yokel who helped Howard with the construction of the fairly elaborate facility. He’s an unassuming guy who is easily bullied by Howard and who seems to be taking the end of the world in stride.

Michelle slowly gains Howard’s trust and is allowed to roam freely in the shelter, as long as she abides by his eccentric rules, like ensuring the VHS tapes are put back in their respective cases. But the woman is paranoid regarding her alleged benefactor and a tense psychological thriller ensues.

What, if anything, is actually happening outside the shelter? Is Howard crazy or just really weird? Nothing plays out as you might expect – or does it? Only one thing is for sure: if you ever find yourself stuck in a fallout shelter at the end of the world, you know the odds are that it will be with a very strange guy.

The acting of this small ensemble cast is superb, with Goodman turning in what I think is his best performance ever, playing the Kathy Bates inspired angel/a-hole part perfectly. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is also excellent as a young woman mustering the moxie to survive.

First time feature director Dan Trachtenberg has created a masterpiece on par with last year’s It Follows, and probably even better (thanks in part to the latter’s lapse of sense at the end.) The script by Josh Campbell, Matthew Stuecken and Damien Chazelle is a lot of fun and feels very fresh.

So don’t ask anything, don’t listen to or read anything else, just go see this movie for yourself – the sooner the better. You’ll be happy you did. Grade: 9/10

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About the author

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Bob Leeper

Bob Leeper is the co-owner and manager of "Arizona’s Pop Culture and Alternative Art Network," Evermore Nevermore. He is the co-creator of the pop culture events Steampunk Street and ENCREDICON, and is a member of the Phoenix Film Critics Society. He also curates the Facebook fan site The Arizona Cave – AZ Fans of Edgar Rice Burroughs, and is one of the few brave and bold fans of Jar Jar Binks.

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