Something has found us… rather randomly. Who in hell saw that trailer for this movie, and as soon as the title rolled on up, you were like, “dufuq?” But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t excited for it. Oh yeah, I loved CLOVERFIELD. I think it was my first found-footage film and I thought it was so well done. Yeah, plot’s thin, but a movie like this didn’t need to be complicated. Save it for the artsy-fartsy films. But anyway, CLOVERFIELD 2 was in demand for YEARS. But everything was always teased and I think the demand for it kind of died down over the years. Then what does Bad Robot do? Gives us a trailer for what appears to be a weird kidnap movie with John Goodman, and then… “CLOVERFIELD” … “10 CLOVERFIELD LANE.” What the FUCK IS THIS SORCERY!?!?!? Well, I was excited and was hoping for a solid birthday present. So without further adieu, this is my honest opinion of 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE.
The story follows Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). She’s had enough of her boyfriend Ben (voiced by Bradley Cooper), and leaves him. On the road to who knows where, she is knocked off the road by another driver. She loses consciousness and wakes up in an underground cell with a leg injury and that same leg handcuffed to a pipe. Her captor slash savior is a skittish man named Howard (John Goodman), who owns the underground bunker they’re in and he inhabits it with the actual builder of the bunker, Emmett (played by John Gallagher Jr.), a dim-witted, but funny guy. Michelle tries to escape, but Howard tells her that something happened outside. The air is contaminated by something unknown… something that has killed people. Michelle doesn’t believe him at first, but when she encounters a survivor with a horribly disfigured face and sanity nowhere to be found, Michelle acknowledges that something has happened outside and the best course of action is to wait… in this underground bunker… with just the three of them…
I really like this movie.
First of all, the genre of the movie is more of a suspense thriller than a horror film. It relies more on the fact that you can’t trust the character of Howard. He’s a loose cannon and it’s hard to predict what he might do or how he will react to… well, anything, which I’ll get to in a minute.
In my opinion, especially now that I’ve seen the movie, the trailer for it is one of the best I’ve seen in years. Why? Because all the important stuff you see in the trailer happens in the beginning and gives nothing away.
One of my favorite aspects of the movie is the humor. Howard is clearly a mentally unstable guy, a little too paranoid for his own good. So when he utters a line like, “I know I seem like a sensible guy” I couldn’t help but laugh a bit. Or when they’re sitting around the dinner table and one of them starts talking about a game of Monopoly, again, throwing out a zinger or two, it’s a genuinely engaging moment. I think that’s one of the stronger draws of the film: the connection the characters make with the audience. While the situation is completely shady and loaded with questions, these characters still find time to try and keep hold of their humanity by cracking jokes.
And then there’s Howard. While I certainly think this character who is crazy and obsessed with “his way or the highway” has been done better before, Goodman does extraordinarily well. While it may be apparent that he’s not the most pleasant person to be around, you get the impression that he isn’t a bad guy. I mean, after Michelle gets in her accident, he saves her, and goes all medical expert on her and tries his best to keep her safe. Even some of his rules don’t seem like they’re beyond reason. But it’s not long before unreasonable rules crop up and when they’re broken or anyone does something that’s outside his comfort zone, then he blows up. He’s threatening, he’s scary, then the question of whether or not being locked in a confined space with this psycho is an improvement over whatever’s happening outside. Yet, you still believe that he has love when he talks about his daughter. Howard is definitely a great morally ambiguous character.
But I think the best part of the entire movie is how unpredictable it is. Since everything standout in the trailer happens in the first act of the story, I just couldn’t predict what would happen next and I love movies that do that to me. In fear of giving anything away, I think I’ll just leave it at that: the best part of the movie is its unpredictability.
However, for all the good this movie does, there is a bit of a downer about it: the ending.
Boy, I sure hope no one scrolling past this accidentally reads this, but… it’s aliens. Yeah, that’s it. Okay, let me clarify something, the ending as an isolated event separate from the rest of the movie is fine. But… since that’s a silly way of looking at a scene that otherwise doesn’t fit with the rest of the movie, let’s just pretend I wasn’t an idiot right there. This reveal is pretty lame. I guess the contaminated air for most of the movie was a toxic gas that the alien living-ships were spewing out. There’s a kind of chase scene with an alien dog and then the alien ship creature tries to eat her while she’s in a truck. She kills it by throwing a molotov cocktail into it’s mouth that I swear to god looked more like a vagina and kills the thing.
Well, that was easy! I guess it’s still better than the aliens from SIGNS or certainly WAR OF THE WORLDS, but damn, why are aliens relegated to easy kills? It’s actually pretty lazy writing when you think about it. It’s later shown that these aliens are here in bulk and it looks like they’ve got themselves a nice little foothold on our planet. How is that possible? Did our military forget about bombs? Flamethrowers? Incendiary grenades? Hairspray and bics? Come on, guys, and this is off the top of my head! This fashion designer who made a ghetto hazmat suit killed one pretty damn quick! Why are her balls bigger than yours??
Plus, where did that dog-alien go after it rudely took Michelle’s mask? It just sort of… goes away. Hey, maybe it was sick of the ending too and wanted out of the scenario. Wise call.
About the best part of this ending it the final two minutes. There’s no dialog and Michelle’s about to leave, but then she gets radio chatter from an unknown person in the nearby city asking for help from anyone who might have medical experience. Michelle can choose to say fuck that shit and roll on forward to safety, or she can go and help. She gives this look that would give Jennifer Lawrence a run for her money at the end of CATCHING FIRE, and goes for the city as lightning streaks in the sky and more aliens are seen as shadows in the clouds. Dude… fucking epic. Not quite the movie we started out with, but a nice save for an otherwise low point of the movie.
As I understand it, this ending was tacked on. It started off as just what the trailer showed: three folks in a cellar waiting for doom to pass. But J.J. Abrams came around and said, “throw this and that in there and call it CLOVERFIELD and we’ll call it a sequel.” Ehhh, I don’t like that. This story had nothing to do with it. According to eagle-eyed fans of the original who have seen this movie as well will point out only one connection: the Tagruato Corporation. Yeah, I missed that big time in the original, but apparently it’s the corporation that is responsible for discovering Clover, the monster that attacked New York in the first movie. Apparently, Howard is or was an employee of that same company.
Know what I think? This is going to end up being similar to the Cornetto trilogy (SHAUN OF THE DEAD, HOT FUZZ, and THE WORLD’S END); related, but no sequels. No future CLOVERFIELD movie will ever truly be a direct sequel to any of these movies. The only connection it will ever have is this mysterious corporation. We will likely never see Clover the monster again, or Michelle from this. This is a bit of a shame as Clover does have her fans. Granted she isn’t nearly as popular as Godzilla, which is what Abrams wanted for the movie, but she has her fanbase, and certainly Michelle was a tremendously written character, so it’s also a shame that we’ll never see her kick more alien ass. Even if we do, and CLOVERFIELD and 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE do end up being sequels and see Clover fighting aliens, A) fuck yeah, bitches, make it happen, and B) you know it’s going to be an incredibly weak connection. What, will the Tagruato Corporation just discover everything supernatural that happens in this universe? What’s next? They discover zombie robots? Actually… yeah, I’d pay money to see that. Abrams can make that seem credible.
The point is, in my opinion, if the movies are related… it will be a lame reason why. Not related, probably the better way to go and the Tagruato Corporation will just be a cheeky little wink of a connection. Honestly, though, I like both films, so if they continue to be quality work, I won’t mind in the slightest. But I am a relative fan of Winstead, so I am sad that I may not ever see her attached to a Cloverfield movie again.
Overall, I like this movie a lot. It had a few problems here and there, but it’s a damn fine film. If you’re a fan of suspense thrillers, I highly recommend it. It’s a great ride and with some strong performances out of everyone involved, I don’t think anyone will be disappointed with it. Just don’t keep your hopes up with a tight CLOVERFIELD connection, it’s just not that movie. Even with it’s flaws, it’s going down as one of my favorites for the month.
My honest rating: 4/5