By Zachary Flint (Kent, Ohio)
“Monsters come in many forms”, a well-fitting tagline for this very effective, suspenseful thriller.
10 Cloverfield Lane stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Michelle who wakes up from a bad car accident to find herself locked in a doomsday bunker owned by a disturbing man named Howard (John Goodman). He tells Michelle that there is nothing left of the outside world, as it was destroyed in an apocalyptic event. Possibly from a terrorist attack or even an alien invasion. Howard had prepared for doomsday and saved Michelle`s life by bringing her into his bunker below his farmhouse. Howard also saved a man named Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.) from the doomsday event, who experienced it firsthand.
The three now must learn to live together in the underground bunker as they try to adjust to their situation. However things may not be what they seem, as Howard begins to grow increasingly psychotic. Raising the question to if he is their savior, or just their captor.
The cast and crew try their hardest to make the audience feel as if this were a real apocalyptic event, and to their benefit it does. The set designs are as expected for those living in a doomsday bunker, fittingly simplistic. The bunker is just enough crowded and confined that, coupled with great camera work, can create a stuffy and claustrophobic environment. There is a moment in the film where Michelle must crawl through a ventilation system to fix an air filtration unit, having a high possibility of getting stuck. This was one of the most claustrophobic moments I have ever seen in a film. Building real panic and tension that made me want to look away.
The script, combined with the solid performances of Goodman, Winstead, and Gallagher Jr., makes for a very surreal experience. The relationships between the characters are strained throughout the entire film and the tension is always high. I couldn’t tell who or when the next characters was going to mentally snap, only that when they did all hell would break loose. There is a particular scene at the dinner table where Goodman`s character snaps, causing the viewer to further contemplate his sanity. The scene is very well scripted, acted, and shot and is one of the highlights of the film. You can really feel the ambiance of the bunker and the naturally awkward interactions of the characters.
My one major complaint about this film is the lacking in character development. The back stories for Michelle and Emmett felt too planned out and forced. As if the film makers set aside three minutes for them to talk about their pasts and that was it. Only to briefly bring it up farther along in the plot to try and force an emotional moment. These scenes should have felt more natural and less cookie cutter film making.
10 Cloverfield Lane works great as a suspense film. Its strongest points being that it can keep you guessing all the way to the end. Viewers will think they have figured out the plot or a characters motives, only to be pleasantly surprised that they were wrong. John Goodman`s role is particularly strong and memorable and gives breed to an all new kind of terror. I loved this film, and those who enjoy suspenseful or sci-fi films will love it too.