10 Cloverfield Lane – film review

"10 Cloverfield Lane" theatrical teaser poster.
“10 Cloverfield Lane” theatrical teaser poster.
Much has been said in advance about 10 Cloverfield Lane, the surprise “sequel” to the 2008 film Cloverfield. And that’s a shame, because in many ways this is a film where the less you know about it going in, the more likely you are to enjoy it. Just be aware that if you never saw Cloverfield, you won’t need to watch it before you see this film, because it isn’t a sequel. In fact, I’m still not clear how this film fits into the Cloverfield universe at all, aside from the title connection.

In a short sequence that’s strongly reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, we see our protagonist Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) packing up and running away after a fight with her fiancé Ben. She is driving on a lonely country road at night, listening to Ben’s phone message pleading with her to come back, when her car suddenly jerks and spins off the road. Michelle awakens later on a bare mattress in a dismal cinder block room, handcuffed to the wall, apparently the prisoner of a stranger named Howard (John Goodman) who claims that he has brought her here to his fallout shelter to save her life.

According to Howard, “there’s been an attack” and the world outside his shelter is no longer safe. Fortunately (?), Howard is a disaster prepper extraordinaire, fully prepared to wait things out. The only other person in the shelter is Emmett (John Gallagher, Jr.), a good ol’ boy with a broken arm who helped Howard build the shelter and who claims he fought his way in when the attack happened.

Far from being a damsel in distress, Michelle is wily and resourceful, constantly testing the waters of her captivity—first in trying to escape from the shelter, and later trying to outwit Howard, who proves to be manipulative, abusive and dishonest. The entire story is presented from her point of view; we share her fear, her unease, and her uncertainty about who to trust. And while the last half hour of the movie requires a willing suspension of disbelief far greater than that required for what came before it, overall I’d say 10 Cloverfield Lane is a tense, smart, well-plotted thriller with a bit of a genre twist.

Release Date: March 11, 2016 (USA)
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Language: English

MySF Rating: Four point five stars
Family Friendliness: 50%


Alcohol/Drugs: 2 (use of sedatives, social drinking of home-brewed liquor, references to past drinking)
Language: 2 (moderate cursing, 1 F-bomb, abusive language)
Nudity: 0
Sexuality: 1 (no outright sexuality, but a certain amount of creepy, uncomfortable sexual tension between characters)
Violence: 4 (on-screen car accident, gaslighting/emotional abuse, implied physical abuse, character’s cut stitched up on-screen, character shot to death, character burned by acid, poison gas attack, survivor of gas attack attempts to break into home, general intense scenes of peril)