10 Cloverfield Lane, featuring Mary Elizabeth Winstead and John Goodman

There’s that cliché that procrastinators always use … you know, “better late than never”. In the case of 10 Cloverfield Lane, I’m wondering if that’s an entirely accurate statement.

It’s late, not only because the film was released so long after 2008’s Cloverfield, but also because it took me so long to get around to watching this film. The trailers for this movie didn’t exactly inspire me to run to the theater so I waited until it was available for streaming to do a review … better late than never?
10 Cloverfield Lane isn’t really a sequel.

10 Cloverfield Lane isn’t really a sequel to the 2008 film. Instead, this feels like an entirely unrelated film that lacked an ending and was shoe-horned into the Cloverfield universe at the last minute. For all intents and purposes the setting for this film could have been an address like “43 Trout Lane”.

The premise: a young woman named only Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is driving along a stretch of road when she is struck by another vehicle and tumbles down an embankment. Waking sometime later, she finds herself trapped in a strange underground bunker with a surly doomsday prepper by the name of Howard (John Goodman). Michelle assumes she’s been abducted by some kind of torture-porn loving freak and immediately begins searching for a way to escape or call for help.

Howard soon informs Michelle that there has been some kind of attack and that that they, along with fellow survivor Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.), must remain in the safety of his underground bunker because the air above ground has been contaminated. Despite Michelle’s apprehension, Emmett seems grateful to have found shelter in the bunker, telling her that he witnessed the “attack” and reassuring her that Howard isn’t a total nut-job.

After a token attempt at post-apocalyptic domestic tranquility in the bunker, Michelle begins to suspect her initial instincts about Howard were correct and attempts to escape. She makes her way to the outer door of the bunker, only inches from freedom. Before she can open the heavy steel door, Michelle is startled by another survivor seeking shelter in the bunker – a victim of the mysterious attack who suffers what appear to be severe chemical burns. Confronted with this seemingly obvious evidence of Howard’s claims, Michelle accepts that this underground confinement is her only means of survival. From this point on things only get creepier. I could tell you more but … spoilers.

Personally, I think this film would have been better off as a stand-alone title. The events which take place between the three characters in the bunker do not depend on Cloverfield in any way. Perhaps it would have been more surprising to learn that there was no alien attack or toxic contaminant. Remember the woman with the chemical burns who tried frantically to get inside the bunker? Maybe she just had a case of shingles and was running from her abusive husband. Wouldn’t you have been shocked to learn that her appearance, which persuaded Michelle to remain in the bunker, was purely coincidental?

So what’s the verdict? Save 10 Cloverfield Lane for a Weekend Rewind. While it isn’t a horrible movie and thankfully it’s not “found footage”, it’s simply not a must-see. There’s plenty of suspense and some terrifying revelations about Howard and the bunker before any association with the original Cloverfield becomes apparent. When that connection is finally made, it just feels like desperate film-makers were struggling to find some shocking twist to justify the majority of the film being set in a subterranean shelter.

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