One of the earliest "buzz" films of 2016 came to our attention when it transpired that producer J.J. Abrams apparently managed to shoot a sequel to CLOVERFIELD and have it ready for release before anybody knew what he was up to. As it turns out, however, 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE (the feature directorial debut of Dan Trachtenberg) isn't really a sequel (nor, thankfully, is it a found-footage film)--it's a complimentary tale set in the same uncertain universe but with a complete geographical shift.
I doubt the film could have been promoted more effectively--the trailers were enough to give you enough of an idea of the premise to get you hooked, but (almost) everything you saw there transpires in the early sections of the actual film, leaving it wide open for plenty of genuine suspense. And of course we're still in the "no spoilers, please" zone, so I must proceed accordingly.
You know that Michelle (the doe-eyed Mary Elizabeth Winstead) awakens from an auto accident to find herself the unwilling guest of Howard (John Goodman) in a well-stocked, lovingly-prepared "bomb" shelter in a stretch of Louisiana farmland. Also sharing the shelter is Howard's handyman Emmett (John Gallagher, Jr.), who had no small part in its actual construction. When Michelle asks for permission to leave or at least make an outside call, Howard assures her that there's nobody out there to hear her and that exposure to the outside environment would result in instant death. "The big one" he's been preparing for for countless years has actually taken place and the three of them are lucky to be safe and alive.
For all that, something seems not quite right about Howard--is it just his unpredictable and mercurial temper? Perhaps he's abducted her as part of an elaborate and sinister hoax... and there's every reason to believe he's the one who actually hit her car. The trouble is that his story adds up perfectly and between Emmett's testimony and rather convincing outside evidence, it's pretty clear that something awful really IS going on outside, even if it isn't exactly what Howard makes it out to be.
10 CLOVERFIELD LANE proceeds down the increasingly uncomfortable path of "Yes, but what about..." and ratchets the tension up steadily, aided by exceptional performances by all three of the leads (THE BIG LEBOWSKI and the remake of THE GAMBLER notwithstanding, I was already more than familiar with the less-than-lovable side of Goodman through his turn in the underrated DEATH SENTENCE, so I can't say that he took me by surprise, but that's certainly not a complaint). You know something's gotta blow up big time... but THEN what? That's ALWAYS the question pending in 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE--and there's scarcely a better question one can ask when it comes to concentrated horror.
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