(Dir. Dan Trachtenberg) (2016)
No, it’s not 10 Rillington Place. Unlike that rotten little Richard Attenborough film about Dr John Christie, here, the villain may not be the real villain.
Not originally intended to be related to Cloverfield, it was thought during production that the story shared aspects with that that highly successful film and so it was titled 10 Cloverfield Lane. Vive la franchise!
Flakey Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) drives off into the night after an argument with her husband. Oops, she loses control of her car and it rolls into a ditch. She wakes up on a thin mattress in a cell or cellar, shackled to the wall. A big scary man (John Goodman) blasts in, telling her “I am keeping you alive” and out he goes again. Howard is not big on exposition. Bit by bit Michelle comes to realise that she is Howard’s captive in a bunker; the other occupant of the bunker, Emmett (John Gallagher Jr), seems quite happy in his cupboard off the kitchen.
Howard insists, without providing much detail, that there has been an “attack” of some sort, and the outerworld is now uninhabitable. He has no intention of letting Michelle test that for herself. She doesn’t object too much openly, she eats dinner nicely at the table with the blokes (in her skimpies), makes a few jokes, does a jigsaw and we do find ourselves thought-shouting at the screen, “make it clearer that you do not want to stay here, woman! Crazies always think you like them.” It appears that Howard ran Michelle off the road – but was that an accident? Or to save her? And if the latter – to what end? Howard also may have abducted a woman earlier, or he may be indentifying Michelle with his dead daughter. “Megan’s not with us anymore”.
Through reinforced windows Michelle sees a blue sky, a calm cornfield and – oh yes – mutilated pigs. A woman succumbs to something nasty outside while bashing on the window, asking to be let in. Michelle starts to think that maybe something is going on out there after all.
When Howard is injured, Michelle sews him up with apparent skill – take note of that.
John Goodman is magnificently threatening and nurturing, irate and grief-stricken at the same time. The bunker is weird and a refuge. The blue skies are so near and o so far. To this point the film is tense, though-provoking and intriguing. . . . But then – things take a turn. It’s not so good thereafter.
Only scroll further if you are not bothered by spoilers :-
In true suspense-movie jump-out-of-your-seat-style Howard shoots Emmett suddenly when he takes he blame for a bio-hazard suit which he and Michelle were making (more of this later). Howard goes about dissolving Emmett in a tub of gloop which Michelle then overturns on Howard. In true suspense-movie false-ending-style, Howard claws his way out of this, all raw and steamy. Michelle escapes, wearing the suit she fashioned out of red fabric, sticky tape and water bottles which she has somehow or the other got back or reproduced without Howard finding out. A rinky-dink homemade suit would not last for terribly long in a poisoned atmosphere I hear you thinking.
I also hear you wondering why the keys have been left in the ignition of the truck which is parked nearby? Well, never mind, Michelle looks up and sees birdies flying and realises the air is fit to breathe. The bunker blows up and oops – here come the night and the aliens. We are strangely gratified to see the aliens, but sadly, not much imagination has been used for these guys, all Matrix-style ships and gaping reptilian maws. I also hear you wondering why Howard hadn’t pointed out the aliens to Michelle before? Might have been useful. Michelle takes the nearest reptile down with a handy Molotov cocktail (yawn) and flees in the truck.
On her way back to wherever, Michelle hears on the radio that the humans are fighting back and medical assistance is required in the opposite direction from the one she is taking. She pauses, then turns the car around and heads off to Redemption.
It’s not a bad film. It looks great. The first section is very good – we really don’t know what, if anything has happened, nor do we know what Howard intends. But the silly too-easy ending is a bore.