10 Cloverfield Lane is the 2016 “sequel” to the 2008 J.J. Abrams sci-fi genre-bender, Cloverfield, which left most audiences scratching their heads wondering, “what the hell did I just watch?”
This sequel-of-sorts is a bit more straightforward in its premise, and I’m glad I finally got around to watching it.
Michelle, played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead, leaves her fiancé and runs away, only to be involved in a car accident and waking to find herself in an underground shelter with her “host,” Howard, and Emmitt (John Gallagher Jr.), a local Louisiana boy who had helped Howard construct the shelter.
Howard, played by John Goodman, is an ex-Navy, conspiracy theory having nut-job, albeit one who has, ostensibly, saved Michelle’s life after her car accident. That “saving” resulted in her being trapped in the bunker as the “attack” has rendered life on the surface impossible for the moment. Russians, Chinese, Martians: Howard can make a case for all of them being the culprit of the attack, but Michelle doesn’t believe until she attempts to escape, only to be confronted by a woman desperately trying to get into the shelter, whose flesh is marked by contamination, and whose madness drives her to wreck herself on the impenetrable shelter door.
We also learn from this event that Howard caused her car accident, having run Michelle off the road as he raced back to his shelter once the attack began.
Faced with confirmation of this new reality, if not the exact cause of it, Michelle begins to adapt to this new life, which Howard reckons could last a year or more, depending on fallout.
Over the course of however long they are down in the hole, paranoia (some of it grounded in more than supposition) creeps in about Howard’s true background and motivations, and plans are made to try and escape to find out if anyone else has survived the event aboveground.
The layering of the films events and revelations is really impressive. One red herring follows a “true” revelation, only to be confirmed in another form after more supposition. I was really impressed with how well the story was put together in that aspect.
Finally, we learn about how Howard used the shelter before the event, the extent of his instability, and the power of the human spirit as Michelle conceives and executes a daring plan to free herself from her “savior.”
In the end, it’s not the Russians, or the Chinese, but aliens (maybe the same type who appear in the first movie…?)who have brought the earth to its knees, although humanity is fighting back by the time Michelle is on the run again, having escaped Howard’s clutches.
I must say, I liked 10 Cloverfield Lane a lot more than I thought I would. It is atmospheric, as opposed to horrific (saving the horror that lurks inside of men’s souls), and is a rather thoughtful examination of the “prepper” phenomenon, despite the out-of-this-world instigation for the survival necessity this go around.
I give it a 4/5.