I don’t see that many thrillers. This year, though, it seems I’ve somehow seen more in a short span of time than ever. Apparently, 10 Cloverfield Lane is a sort of sequel to Cloverfield, a low budget indie I never saw let alone heard of that sounds like Blair Witch Project. I had to find out what the buzz is about.
After breaking up with her boyfriend, Ben (the voice of Bradley Cooper), Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) wakes up chained to a bed in a spartan cellar. Erratic weirdo Howard (John Goodman) put her there, and he informs her that he rescued her from the car accident she had as well as the alien apocolypse that started while she was out cold. He stresses to her that she can’t leave the underground mini compound they share with Emmett (John Gallagher, Jr.), another basement refugee Howard saved.
Director Dan Trachtenberg builds the plot entirely on psychological tension, and his pace and intensity are great. Even Tommy James and the Shondells’ peppy “I Think We’re Alone Now” comes off as eldritch. Howard is creepy, and he gives Michelle—and the viewer—ample reason to doubt him. Goodman is brilliant and he steals every scene, but Winstead definitely stands on her own. We don’t know until the end whether Howard is a sincere albeit odd guy or a fucking maniac.
I enjoyed 10 Cloverfield Lane all the way to the finale, but it totally lost me there. The wrap up is too long, too Hollywood, and completely unnecessary. I would have found it more satisfying had the story ended at a specific point and left what happens next to my imagination; not knowing whether Howard is telling the truth holds all the dramatic power. Removing that doubt is a mistake. As is, it’s a disappointingly cheesy end to such a nailbiter.
Overall, 10 Cloverfield Lane kept my attention, but time will have to tell whether it made a big impression on me. I understand the buzz now. I hated the ending, though.
(AMC River East) B+