Movie review of “10 Cloverfield Lane”: This horror film stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead as a young woman being held captive by a paranoid survivalist (John Goodman) in a well-stocked doomsday bunker. Rating: 1.5 stars out of 4.
“Waking up from a car accident, a young woman finds herself in the basement of a man who says he’s saved her life from a chemical attack that has turned all females over the age of 36 into a soft vaporous liquid, which can be utilized as a disinfectant.”
Reading that, from promotional materials purportedly describing what’s up in “10 Cloverfield Lane,” one’s natural response is: “??!!!!”
Alas, I suspect that verbiage seems like part of a secretive scheme by producer J.J. Abrams and his creative team to conceal the true nature of the movie until it opened, the better to fuddle the expectations of fans curious to know how he and his people followed up their surprise 2008 found-footage horror hit “Cloverfield.”
Movie Review ★½
‘10 Cloverfield Lane,’ with Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Goodman, John Gallagher Jr. Directed by Dan Trachtenberg, from a screenplay by Josh Campbell, Matthew Stuecken and Damien Chazelle. 105 minutes. Rated PG-13 for thematic material including frightening sequences of threat with some violence, and brief language. Several theaters.
The fact is, rather than something truly wild and way, way off the wall, “10 Cloverfield Lane” is a variation on the “don’t go down into the basement” school of scary moviemaking, only this time with a 180-degree twist. Which is to say, it’s a movie whose central premise is, “Don’t leave the basement and climb toward the light.” And this time, no found footage.
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The basement here is a well-stocked doomsday bunker in which a woman named Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) finds herself imprisoned by the bunker’s builder, a paranoid survivalist named Howard (John Goodman), after a car crash. He chains her up. He tells her he’s saved her from death by fallout following nuclear armageddon.
He’s weird. He’s controlling. He may be lying about what’s up there beyond the bunker’s double-locked doors.
For most of the picture, hulking Howard is a mildly menacing host. Michelle is a smart, resourceful woman, able to convert a crutch into a spear and a shower curtain into a hazmat suit. There’s a third occupant (John Gallagher Jr.), who is ill-defined to the point of being almost inconsequential.
Board games, threats from Howard and desperate escape planning by Michelle take up most the picture. And then, first-time feature director Dan Trachtenberg and the screenwriters, apparently realizing that not much has been going on so far, ramp up to a full-bore CG explosion extravaganza finale.
Too little. Too late.