10 Cloverfield Lane
Critics have talked ad nauseum about sequels and remakes just wanting to cash in on stories and characters we already know. Something you see a lot less often are attempts at tweaking a popular story and using a few of the characters to make a completely different story, and bringing in all those fans. For example, Creed would be one such movie. It introduces us to an underdog boxer, which is nothing new. They give us Rocky Balboa to train him, which is nothing new. Yet they come up with a convoluted story about Rocky’s opponent (and future trainer) Apollo Creed, having an illegitimate child. In a scenario that would only happen in movieland — his widow adopts Creed, so he doesn’t live life in juvenile hall and foster homes.
10 Cloverfield Lane has absolutely nothing to do with Cloverfield, one of those “found footage” films that dealt with aliens attacking and teenagers videoing it.
This was originally called “The Cellar” which is a much better title. It supposedly got a rewrite from director Damian Chazelle (Whiplash), yet somehow ended up being a Cloverfield vehicle.
This is the debut film for director Dan Trachtenberg, and it feels like a debut movie. It’s not that interesting to look at, and the tone is all over the place. I won’t discuss anything that will be a spoiler, but it’s as if this Room meets Misery meets Independance Day picture, tries to trick you with various scenarios. That leads to a few problems. First, characters do things they logically wouldn’t do. Second, it’s easy to figure out what it is that’s happening and who you can believe.
The script needed a rewrite, and a few more scares should’ve been thrown in. The only thing it had going for it were three good performances.
Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) plays Michelle, who leaves her Louisiana home after a break up with Ben (the credits say that’s Bradley Cooper in those few quick phone calls we hear). She’s in a car accident and “rescued” by Howard (John Goodman). For a guy that saves her, brings her food, and seems to have helped with her injuries — you wonder why he’s so rude and menacing. No matter what his motives may be, killing her with kindness would surely be the approach to take. He doesn’t do that, which is probably supposed to get the audience to worry. It just makes me start to check out. I think of how the tension just kept building in Room, and here you have very similar scenes and you’re not the least bit worried.
The third good performance is John Gallagher, Jr. (Short Term 12) as Emmet. He starts out as a mystery guy in the house, but the audience is soon told what his story is. It’s a shame that we never doubt what he says, because that would’ve brought a bit more tension. Imagine Michelle being in this underground bunker with two men she knows nothing about, with nowhere to go.
More humor could have also come from the fact that Howard is a survivalist/prepper. Either he was totally prepared, or this is all his conspiracy filled thoughts and fantasies on full display. For those interested in seeing it, you’ll find out. The movie doesn’t leave you hanging.
The film had a number of weird flaws and continuity problems. In one scene, it’s daylight. A character runs into another room, and as they look out the window, it’s night.
Howard is such a survivalist, that he has air filtering in the house, clean water, and food supplies to last years. Yet he doesn’t have a gas mask.
The movie gives us a lot of fun ‘60s tunes. When Goodman starts shakin’ his rump to The Exciters singing “Tell Him,” it reminds me of The Big Chill.
It’s great hearing him blast these oldies out of his jukebox, especially Tommy James and the Shondells doing “I Think We’re Alone Now,” with lyrics that fit the theme of the movie. I was reminded of the creepy little kids in Children of the Corn playing 45s of Del Shannon’s “Runaway.” And speaking of 45s, why is it a CD jukebox and not one playing 45s? Does Howard just have it stocked with CDs of oldie compilations, because the only other song he played was Frankie Avalon’s “Venus.”
The movie had a few entertaining scenes and a couple of good scares. The problem is that the longer it went on, the more it tried my patience.
If you want to see a woman chained to a bed — find Black Snake Moan (Samuel Jackson can be a lot more menacing than Goodman).
If you want to see a woman stare out a skylight — order last year’s Room (with Short Term 12 co-star Brie Larson, before she was the Oscar winner).
This movie is going to have a huge opening weekend, because the commercials for it are great. I’m guessing most will be disappointed with it, but they won’t hate it. It’s the type of escapism that audiences enjoy, despite all the flaws.
It gets 2 stars out of 5.