August 8, 2016

10 Cloverfield Lane

Dan Trachtenberg, 2016
Everyone has probably at some point imagined what their emergency plan would be if some catastrophic event were to occur. Perhaps there's a bomb shelter in town. Or perhaps you have that rural family member that is as close to off the grid as it gets.

There is this whole sub-culture of doomsday preppers. They are meticulously building emergency shelters, often underground. It's part of our whole post 9/11 zombie-obsessed culture. Planning for the worst. Some would say it's overcautious, even paranoid. There's a stigma associated with the prepper type. Far right wing, reclusive, lacking certain social skills. What's interesting is that while we often let our imagination run wild when it comes to what we would do in an emergency situation, we probably don't envision ourselves buddying up to the doomsday prepper in order to survive.

Howard (John Goodman) is exactly this type of person. Building his underground bunker for years leading up to this "chemical attack", his efforts finally feel justified when something finally occurs. A doomsday preppers wet dream. And Howard is exactly the socially awkward type of person that you would picture a prepper type to be. Paranoid, controlling, impatient, unpredictable. When Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) awakens from her state of unconsciousness after a car accident, Howard doesn't exactly help her feel comfortable. She is chained to the wall, so she might as well assume she's being held captive.

It's a limited storytelling movie for sure. Most of the film takes place in Howard's underground bunker. There is impressive production design here too. Every little nook and cranny of the shelter is decorated. The wallpaper makes it feel kind of homey, and the back-lit glass behind the kitchen sink almost makes you feel like you aren't 20' below grade. And although you don't see the threat above ground, you know it's there from the constant loud noises that suddenly erupt.

It's a satisfying film for sure. You spend a good portion of the film wondering yourself if Howard is a good guy or not. You feel locked in there with Michelle, dealing with that same uncomfortable uncertainty. But of course there's all these things going on above you as well, so it makes you wonder even if Howard is a bad guy you have to weight it out. It's probably still better putting up with the bad guy if it means you aren't falling victim to the chemical attack above you or whatever it is.

A lot of people probably go into this movie having seen Cloverfield (2008) and assuming that it's connected to this film. But it's not really. Producer JJ Abrams has said that it exists in the same universe. But it's probably better to just disregard any connection, because they are really just two completely different films. The only similarity is the extra-terrestrial presence. But that's all. And don't worry, that's no spoiler. 

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