If M. Night Shymalan made Kimmy Schmidt, it would be something like 10 Cloverfield Lane. That is, it’s about a girl trapped in a bunker with a really terrible twist.
The film opens with intensity. With very little dialogue and a heavy score, we watch protagonist Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) leaving her partner – running away “like she always does”. The sudden impact of a car crash quickly throws that plot out the window as she wakes up in what appears to be a cell.
In fact, it’s an underground fallout shelter built by Howard (John Goodman), your typically crazy middle American who’s paranoid about alien invasions and is keeping Michelle locked up for her own safety alongside Howard’s neighbour Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.). Apparently there’s been some sort of chemical attack on Earth. Leaving the shelter would be suicide.
The remains of director Dan Trachtenberg’s film is essentially one long guessing game. Who is telling the truth? Are there really aliens roaming the planet? Is Howard really a monster? Who bloody cares?
Trachtenberg asks too much of his audience to buy into such a ludicrous premise. Goodman plays Howard like a pantomime villain, staring into the middle distance as if he’s been studying ‘Psychotic Bad Guy 101’. The idea that he could actually be right about the aliens is laughable. Instead, we get what’s meant to be a tight thriller about a woman stuck in confinement with a potential killer, who forms some weird dysfunctional family before eventually coming to her senses (i.e. what the audience have already been internally screaming for what seems like hours).
That Howard *spoiler warning* is actually right about the aliens is just plain ridiculous, but then aliens are the only thing tying this film to its spiritual predecessor Cloverfield (a far superior film). Michelle eventually escapes the shelter to be chased by an alien creature that looks like somebody spliced a leech and a penis together, before then destroying a giant UFO with a lighter and bottle of booze that just happened to be in her vicinity. Oh, and that’s after she creates a whole chemical protection suit and gas mask out of a shower curtain and a soda bottle because she just happens to be a clothes designer. Thrifty.
“Females are strong as hell”, goes the Kimmy Schmidt theme song. And that might be the case here, but Michelle is offered very little depth of character. Neither are her supporting characters. The film’s tagline notes “Monsters come in many forms” and asks us to question who is the real monster: Howard or the aliens. In practice it’s probably Trachtenberg himself for creating such a laughably bad thriller. Now pass me the Pinot Noir.
Watch: 10 Cloverfield Lane is out now.