Independent horror films are becoming increasingly common, especially with the outbreak of found-footage horror films, they are becoming increasingly easy to make, and thus they lose a bit of their edge. However, saying this, there are still ample opportunities for a truly surprising horror film to arise, and while I won’t pretend that 10 Cloverfield Lane is a discovery I made, the fact that this film essentially arrived out of nowhere definitely means something went very right for it, and I was pleasantly surprised to have enjoyed it as much as I did.
The film finds innocent Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) escaping a partner she doesn’t love and setting off for a brighter future. Those plans are put to sleep when she is involved in a crash-collision and wakes up in a bunker, with two other people – the man that saved her, Howard (the always reliable John Goodman) and Emmett, the kind and gentle handyman (John Gallagher Jr.). Michelle soon discovers there has been some form of attack that has left the air outside contaminated, and that Howard rescued her from the scene of the crash and brought her here – it is likely that they are amongst the last remaining people on Earth. The days pass, but pretty soon it becomes clear there is something far more complex going on, and Howard is far more sinister than one would expect, and it is clear that he is hiding something, and Michelle is determined to find out what it is that Howard is hiding, so she can escape, with the assistance of Emmett, who also seems to be hiding some secrets.
Despite sharing a title and similar themes, 10 Cloverfield Lane does not bear too much similarity to Cloverfield, and while both films employ similar themes, 10 Cloverfield Lane stands as itself, a great and deeply scary horror that scares as much as it entertains. What emerges isn’t a revolutionary horror film by any means, but rather a well-made and very tense, atmospheric horror film that goes almost its entire runtime with very little physical violence (I spotted one or two references to The Shining, which seems to be somewhat of an influence on this film). Instead of relying on jump scares and shock tactics, 10 Cloverfield Lane uses the far more effective tool of suspense, and through the creation of a deeply disturbing atmosphere, it is even more terrifying and thrilling as anyone would expect.
John Goodman is one of cinema’s most beloved and reliable character actors, and while he is undoubtedly much more recognizable than the vast majority of character actors (along with Steve Buscemi, Goodman is part of an elite group of character actors that are actually famous in their own right), he hasn’t gotten many lead roles that show off his incredible talent (but at least he has had lead roles) – 10 Cloverfield Lane was a great showcase for Goodman, and an even better one for him to shed the lovable, nice-guy image that we know and love him for. His portrayal of Howard is suitably terrifying and undeniably creepy – but consider the fact that his performance creates a character that is far more complex and three-dimensional than the majority of horror movie villains (although, the best part of Goodman’s performance is that we don’t ever know if he really is a villain, or if he is actually the savior he claims to be). His performance is complicated and interesting, and I think this is another high in Goodman’s always consistent career – and while I wouldn’t dare say this film will lead him to better things, it at least might give him a little more exposure to audiences that don’t normally watch the films he stars in (another redundancy – the man has starred in almost every genre and type of film).
Goodman is great, but this movie belongs to Mary Elizabeth Winstead. The idea of a final girl is something that always exists in horror, and it doesn’t escape this film. Unlike many horror heroines, she doesn’t willingly put herself in the path towards danger or death – she is forced into it, and it is her mission to escape it (even if she might regret it when she sees what is actually out there). Winstead is absolutely mesmerizing, and as this is not her first horror film, she clearly is a popular actress that attracts these kinds of independent horror films, and I am sure she is going to give it another try (and I wonder if the rumors of a sequel to 10 Cloverfield Lane are true, because Winstead has apparently expressed interest in returning). I also hope that this film serves as an overall breakthrough for Winstead, because she deserves it, and it was a great showcase for a very talented actress.
10 Cloverfield Lane is a pretty brilliant film – it is tense and dark, and has a truly terrifying undercurrent. It isn’t flashy or showy, and most of the horror comes from the suspense, provided mainly by the truly brilliant performance from John Goodman, and the fear in Winstead, because much like the audience, she doesn’t know the truth, but knows that she needs to, in order for her survival. Its a wonderful film, and is a great example of horror done right. A fantastic film.