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10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)

***Spoilers avoided***

In 2009, I watched a film called ‘Cloverfield’ (2008). It was an alien-invasion film in the ‘found footage’ genre. I didn’t mind it at all, and though it was hardly landmark cinema, it was good enough for a TV watch. Then I noticed this film, billed as part of ‘The Cloverfield franchise’. As I don’t usually bother with sequels, I waited until it was on TV last week, and recorded it.

The story here could run alongside the first film, as it concentrates on people who survive the initial attack. But the good news (or not) is that you don’t have to have watched the original, as its relevance to this film is minimal, to say the least. The 2016 film could be about any catastrophic event, whether a nuclear war, plague, or aliens arriving. But be ready for a fairly long haul, as the cast is minimal, to say the least. Mainly centred around three characters on one reasonably small set, it depends heavily on the script, and claustrophobia, to work at any level.

John Goodman stars, as Howard. He is a conspiracy nut, and a survivalist who has spent many years constructing a safe bunker below his farm. Stocked with enough supplies to last for years, and a system to filter the air, he is ready to outlast any doomsday scenario. He is a man of manners, who demands them in return, as well as respect for his preparations, and foresight.

Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) has fallen out with her boyfriend. Tearfully, she leaves the house, intending to drive off to a new life in another town. But he keeps calling her on the car phone, distracting her as she drives along a remote dark road. She is involved in a serious car crash, and everything goes black.

Unsurprisingly, (for me at least) she comes around to find herself in a dank cellar room, chained to a bed with an IV in her arm, and an injured leg. Howard appears. He offers her food, and then explains that there has been an incident, perhaps an alien invasion, maybe an enemy attack. She will be looked after by him, and cannot leave his bunker for her own safety. She then discovers another person there, a young man called Emmett (John Gallagher) who knows Howard from old, and actually came into the bunker at his own request.

So, life begins for the three of them. bathroom breaks and showers when instructed, food prepared by Howard, and lots of playing of board games, doing jigsaws, and reading of magazines. Michelle wants out, refusing to believe Howard’s story of the catastrophe, and she tries to enlist the help of Emmett to escape. Between them, they try to outwit the unstable Howard, pretending to be happy to be there as they work on their plan. Meanwhile, disturbing facts are discovered about Howard’s past, and he may not be the man he appears to be after all. So, spoiler-free, that’s about it. I am sure you can imagine what happens next, as it could easily have been a 30-minute episode of the old Twilight Zone series.

Is it worth watching, if only for Goodman?
Is it thrilling, with an engaging heroine?
Is the end satisfyingly different, or unusual?
Do the other two cast members make you care about their fate?
Have you seen it all before, in so many other similar stories?
Was it more or less a waste of 104 minutes of my life?

This trailer lasts for 103 seconds.
That’s all you need to see. The whole thing, in less than two minutes.