Feed your fears in this chilling new tale.
In 2008, found footage thriller Cloverfield crossed the classic likes of Godzilla with The Blair Witch Project to create a monster Horror film that capitalized on the post-9/11 anxiety of the time of its release with strikingly similar but controversial scenes. Its spiritual successor 10 Cloverfield Lane takes a more subtle approach in bringing in the present paranoia of the era of terrorism in which we live today and tweaks the original formula for the better.
In New Orleans, Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) decides to end things with her fiancé after a huge fight. As she drives out of the city into rural Louisiana, she listens to the radio to calm her nerves. Distracted from news about blackouts across the country, she answers a call from her fiancé Ben (Bradley Cooper) only to collide with a truck in an accident and end up unconscious.
When Michelle awakens, she is in a concrete cellar of some sort, still injured and thus hooked up to IV fluids, and she also happens to be chained to a wall. A strange man who identifies himself as Howard (John Goodman) explains that a strange attack has happened and that he found her on the side of the road and saved her. His bunker, he explains, will keep them safe from everything going on outside. Another survivor of the attack, Emmett (John Gallagher, Jr.), corroborates his claim.
Understandably still scared, Michelle remains unconvinced and on edge. During dinner, she hatches a plan to steal Howard's keys. Despite her remaining injuries, she manages to incapacitate him, get the keys and make it to the exit of the bunker. At the top of the stairs, just as she is about to make her escape into the supposedly toxic world above ground, a woman (Suzanne Cryer) appears at the window. Covered in lesions of some sort, she begs to be taken into the bunker but soon dies, with Michelle witness to the whole incident.
Shaken by this event, Michelle comes to terms with the reality of Howard and Emmett's explanation and soon begins to adjust to life underground. They play games, watch movies, read books, do whatever they can to pass the time. Michelle learns of Howard's daughter Megan, and they all seem to get closer. However, one day, the air filtration system stops working. Since Michelle is the only one small enough to fit in the ducts, Howard sends her through them to the central unit to reset it. While in the small room, Michelle notices the word HELP carved on the inside of the glass and a bloody earring that she recognizes as belonging to Megan in the picture she had seen, and she realizes that Howard is not all that he seems.
Despite its limited character development, 10 Cloverfield Lane manages to create such palpable tension and gripping suspense, maximizing its confined setting and small cast. Each choice that Michelle makes actually seems logical, an unusual occurrence for a film meant to scare, as these are often full of flat, tiresome stereotypical characters. The parallel to the paranoia prevalent today makes Michelle relatable as a sort of everyman, making her lack of development actually work. The same goes with Howard's suspicious nature and unclear background, as they give audiences the chance to project their own terrors on him and make him into a greater fear than specifics would allow.
While 10 Cloverfield Lane lacks in any larger meaning -- as did its predecessor -- the film's success lies in its ability to feed off our own fears. This isn't a movie that provokes thought. It's one that grips and chills. From the beginning, it uses a tight, enthralling narrative to catch and hold our attention while the perfectly disturbing performances from its small cast and the well-crafted filming style work together to recreate the air of intense paranoia, anxiety and insecurity in which we live today.
Images courtesy of Paramount.