Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Horror Film Review

10 Cloverfield Lane (2016):  This third film in J.J. Abrams' loosely connected trilogy (Super 8 and Cloverfield being the first two) is part horror, part mystery, and part sci-fi and just all kinds of groovy.  This is a movie Alfred Hitchcock might have directed.  Or John Carpenter.  Or M. Night Shyamalan.  You get the idea.  It's tense and scary with twists I never saw coming.  Just like that flying umbrella lady from the U.K., it's practically perfect in every way.

Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) fled the city and her douchey boyfriend (voice of Bradley Cooper) and is driving in a bucolic area of Louisiana.  A pickup runs her off the road, she crashes, and then wakes up in stark, cement room hooked up to an IV.  Her captor/savior Howard (John Goodman) explains he saved her life, they're in his bomb shelter, and a global cataclysm of unknown origin has rendered the air poisonous.  She's dubious because Howard acts more than a little nuts at times.  He's a paranoid doomsday prepper with a legion of personality disorders.  Although when she meets the third occupant Emmett (John Gallagher, Jr.), a seemingly normal local who knows Howard and backs up everything he's said, Michelle begins to believe a little.  When she tries to escape and witnesses a woman outside the bunker die from what appears to severely contaminated air, Michelle believes a lot.  However, as the days go on and she and Emmett begin to fully grasp the extent of their host's insanity, the two plan an escape regardless of how deadly the environment above may be.  SPOILERS.  Michelle creates a hazmat suit from a shower curtain and a gas mask that would make MacGyver jealous.  Howard knows something's up, kills Emmett, and we learn just how crazy he, Howard, is (he abducted a local girl and kept her prisoner in the bunker and pretended she was his daughter).  Michelle grapples with him, spilling a barrel of acid on him (method of disposing of the girl and Emmett) and starting a fire.  She finally reaches the surface just as the bunker explodes only to find a perfectly normal farm setting.  Birds are flying, insects are buzzing, the crops are...cropping.  She removes her mask and discovers the air is just fine.  But when she hears aircraft and climbs atop a pickup truck's roof for a better look, we realize the air is not the problem.  It's the aliens that have invaded earth that's the problem.  She then gives the best line of the film.  "Oh, come on."  The last 15 minutes are super exciting with Michelle fighting for her life against evil E.T.s.

You'd think a movie with Cloverfield in the title would have tipped me off to the cause of the cataclysm.  Howard's madness and Michelle's struggles against it cleverly distracts the viewer from that so when it's revealed, you're like, "No fucking way!"  But it's a good "No fucking way!"  And the filmmakers do it without you feeling manipulated.  There is a bit of a common sense problem regarding Howard's bunker, though.  A design flaw.  To access the air filtration pump, you have to crawl through duct work that's way too narrow for a normal sized guy much less someone as girthy as Howard.  And in case you're wondering, I looked it up...the acid in the movie, perchloric acid, is indeed flammable.  Yay, science!

The Skinny

Acting:  Goodman steals the show as nutjob Howard.  Winstead and Gallagher deliver fine performances.
Story:  Uniquely layered and loaded with unexpected tension and suspense.  One hell of a script.
Direction:  Expertly handled from beginning to end.  Superbly crafted.  One hour and 44 minutes go by in a flash.
Production Values:  Its budget, $15 million, probably went mostly to the CGI folks.  Beyond that, detailed and realistic sets that are properly lit.
Gore/FX:  There is some blood and a few gory bits.  I'm somewhat surprised they got away with a PG-13 rating, to be honest.  The CGI at the end is all kinds of fabulous.
Scares:  Actually, yes.  More relentless tension than jump scares, though.
Ending:  Unexpected thrills and chills with the door left open for a possible fourth Cloverfield tale.  Fingers crossed.
Verdict:  Should you see 10 Cloverfield Lane?  Without question.  It's as close to cinematic perfection as you're ever likely to experience.  As good as Super 8 and Cloverfield were, and they were damned good, this is even better.

Rating:  5 out of 5

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