Monday, April 11, 2016

10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)

Welcome to another tiresome franchise, with another tiresome spoiler alert if you really need one. Dubious yet certain sequels lie dead ahead. In fact, 10 Cloverfield Lane is kinda sorta already a sequel, related in some thematic and highly atmospheric and mysterious way to Cloverfield, which came out eight years ago. I enjoyed Cloverfield, though it is as preposterous as any other "found footage" exercise in the bin. Monsters like no one has ever imagined dealing Manhattan serious unprecedented death and destruction and dude keeps the prosumer gear running. The new J.J. Abrams production with the word "Cloverfield" in the title has a number of intriguing points, starting with the involvement of Abrams itself, which for me is generally a good thing. John Goodman as a mysterious wingnut survivalist (and/or sadomasochistic thrill killer, never quite nailed down) has made a career of this kind of thing. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is a veteran of Death Proof, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, and more. But the problem starts—and continues, because we're hardly done with this movie, no, we're just getting started—at WTF exactly is going on here?! This is what I call the peekaboo problem, which happens when a script (or scripts, in this case) actively hides important information for no good reason other than to prolong the story, e.g., in this case, WTF-exactly-is-going-on-here, as mentioned. And it's not good enough after two movies that the characters themselves don't know yet. There seems to be some kind of alien invasion—a serious calamity at least. But if I'm reading the story direction correctly, the whole John Goodman thing in this movie turns out to be a lurid red herring to the larger arc, and irrelevant. When all else fails, add serial killers, seems to be the prevailing ethos (I mean we're talking every trope and cliché of a certain omnivorous serial killer movie mindset). Look out, people, I smell Lost.

Michelle (Winstead) is waylaid on a lonely highway and wakes to find herself imprisoned—shackled, even, at first—in a room without windows. Howard (Goodman) tells her she is safe and there has been an attack, a big one. He won't let her leave the house. He mentions Russians and Martians as possible culprits. It seems likely Howard is crazy (always a winning plot point), but soon enough we see compelling evidence that the outside air is indeed as poisonous as he has warned. The reveals, when they come—and remember, we probably haven't even seen the half of them yet—are ludicrous. Technically, I have no complaints. As movie-movie, it is perfectly functional. There are plenty of setups for plenty of suspenseful scenes, followed by plenty of suspense. Will she ever be able to reach the thing? Did he already forget about the thing? Et cetera. Michelle is ferocious about winning her freedom, so that's a plus. The use of confined space is pretty good. But the violence, though relatively infrequent, can be awfully unpleasant. And my belief that this movie ever knew what it was doing ended with the last scene and no resolution whatsoever. Now it's Psycho. Now it's War of the Worlds. Now it's Night of the Living Dead. Now it's Silence of the Lambs. Good grief. Winstead is fine and who doesn't approve plucky young woman heroes in this day and age. But Howard turns out to be mostly a stunt, and that's lame. There's way too much totally kewl koncept and not nearly enough plausible resolution. I leave you with these words: Remember Lost!

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