Creepy 'Cloverfield' old-fashioned yet original

JJ Abrams. Photo: Reuters
JJ Abrams. Photo: Reuters
Creepy jailer or savvy survivalist? Or both?

After all, Howard (John Goodman) insists, "crazy is building your ark after the flood has already come."

He isn't waiting for a flood or Martian invasion or chemical or nuclear attack or other catastrophe. No siree.

He built a doomsday bunker and stocked it with shelves of canned and nonperishable food along with movies such as 'Cannibal Airlines' and 'Pretty in Pink' on VHS and DVD, a jukebox, puzzles, board games, a fish tank, an air filtration system, a shower and toilet, a generator and other essentials for the long haul.

But after a violent car accident lands Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) in his underground shelter, shackled to the wall and informed, "everyone outside of here is dead," she initially is not sure what to make of him.

And neither are we in '10 Cloverfield Lane', a sort of cinematic cousin to 2008's 'Cloverfield'.

With JJ Abrams as a producer and Dan Trachtenberg as director, it has been shrouded in more mystery than 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens'.

Its synopsis consists of the tagline on the poster: "Monsters come in many forms".

As with 'Star Wars', the less you know the better. But if you have seen the trailer you know there are at least three main characters - in addition to Goodman and Winstead, John Gallagher Jr. is part of the key cast - and the slyly effective use of the song 'I Think We're Alone Now'.

'10 Cloverfield Lane' does several things very well: It puts us in Michelle's shoes, wondering if Howard could be telling the truth and if there is any way to escape his sinister sanctuary. It also ratchets up the tension, dread and sense of danger with one scene that produced gasps and jolts at a preview. And when someone mutters with incredulity, "come on," the character speaks for us all.

A menacing Goodman, who apparently lost weight since this movie was filmed, uses his heft and ability to turn on the crazy eyes to keep everyone on tenterhooks as he declares kindness and generosity have become "antiquated customs". Winstead ('A Good Day to Die Hard' and TV's 'Mercy Street' and 'The Returned') alternates between frightened and fierce with both weird normalcy and hypervigilance in between.

'10 Cloverfield Lane' is an old-fashioned and yet original psychological thriller that blends the hidden with outright horror and reminds us of the truth in that famous line: Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you.

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