Tuesday, August 16, 2016

10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)

Film: 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)
Stars: John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Gallagher, Jr.
Director: Dan Trachtenberg
Oscar History: No nominations
Snap Judgment Ranking: 3/5 stars

In the past few years, a trend has occurred in the horror/thriller genre that is both cool and (perhaps like all of those people who keep proclaiming a Golden Age of Television even after most of those "Golden Age" shows have disappeared) eye-rolling is that we consistently get "quality" horror films to go along with the genre that for years was considered something of a wasteland.  Though decades ago horror films also ran this gamut (watch a Hitchcock film next to a Vincent Price one...though I have an affinity for both), it's become more pronounced in recent years, with a plethora of profitable but deeply forgettable slasher films playing alongside movies such as The Babadook, The Conjuring, and (best of all) The Cabin in the Woods.  This year, we've already had one additional entry into this pantheon, 10 Cloverfield Lane, a film that has received wild praise for its claustrophobic look at abuse and paranoia.

(Spoilers Ahead) I bring up claustrophobia both literally and figuratively right now, because it is at the center of this film's appeal.  A young girl named Michelle (Winstead), driving carelessly gets into a car accident, and then is brought to a shelter by a man named Howard (Goodman), who at first seems to be both deeply controlling (he has her chained up) as well as oddly kind to her, but in a patronizing, paternal way.  As the film goes on, the movie shows us that they are in an elaborate bomb shelter, as Howard is sure that there has been some sort of chemical attack on the United States (though he's not sure from where, but it's heavily implied he assumes that it's either aliens or a foreign government).

Michelle is not convinced, and slowly gets the only other person in the shelter, a young man named Emmett (Gallagher) who seems to be a bit dense but sweet, to team up with her as she tries to escape.  She soon learns that something tragic has happened outside of the shelter when a neighbor outside the wall shows up and is "infected."  However, she also learns that Howard's daughter that he speaks of with great affection is not his daughter, but instead a girl whom he kidnapped earlier just like Michelle.  The film progresses with Emmett and Michelle trying to escape, willing to risk the outside compared to staying with Howard, and in the process Emmett dies, followed by Howard, and then Michelle is sent out into the world where she is attacked by aliens.

That last twist in the script may largely depend on whether or not you liked this movie, and honestly I kind of hated the last minute twist, which I know a number of people have weighed in on here.  It felt like one direction too many in a film that had already been quite good, so the twist didn't kill it for me, but felt more like an "oh brother" eye roll.  The picture up until that point was a strong acting trio, particularly in my opinion between Goodman and Winstead, the former giving his boisterous physical appearance so much depth as a man bereft of emotional connection and therefore trying to force it, and the latter a woman who is encountering circumstances she never pondered occurring in her life.  The metaphor of a textbook abusive relationship is not thinly-veiled (in many ways it resembles We Need to Talk About Kevin in a lot of ways), but it works because the actors and writers are strong.

The last minute alien attack, however (therefore linking us to the original Cloverfield monster from the film that shares its name, and thus making this a tangential sequel) felt overdone and unnecessary.  I felt like the original script (at least what I've read is the original script), with Michelle thinking this was all a horrible nightmare, and then driving to see a destroyed Chicago, may have been a more appropriate and ambiguous ending.  The implication of an alien attack and the Cloverfield monster is already there in the title, we don't need to get a full-on confirmation, as ambiguity in the film, particularly the strange grey areas that the film went to early on (is Howard an awful person who's also correct, or just a sociopath?) is its greatest asset.  While the ending didn't destroy the picture (too many good things had happened at that point to really contest the quality), it definitely left me with a sour taste.

Those are my thoughts on this most recent "prestige" horror film-how about you?  What's your favorite of this recent trend?  And what'd you think of 10 Cloverfield Lane and its twist ending?  Share your thoughts below!

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