John Goodman makes a wicked Armageddon host in this creepy, campy new thriller

By Alynda Wheat
March 11, 2016 11:50 AM

If it’s a kidnapping, it’s an odd one, as Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) awakens from a car accident to discover that she’s tethered to an IV in her arm and a cinder-block wall at her leg. But then, everything about the underground bunker at 10 Cloverfield Lane is a little off. There are movies on DVD and VHS, board games to pass the time, a fully stocked kitchen, and Michelle is soon free to walk around as she pleases. She just can’t leave.

A cinematic cousin of 2008’s Cloverfield (also produced by J.J. Abrams), 10 Cloverfield Lane is creepy and campy all at once. It’s a beautifully paced blend of sci-fi and horror, Armageddon flicks and Criminal Minds that boils down to one question: Can we trust Howard (John Goodman)?

An earnest Doomsday prepper, Howard owns the bunker and he takes credit for saving the lives of his guests, Michelle and neighbor Emmett (The Newsroom‘s John Gallagher Jr). Howard claims that the reason they’re underground is because of a massive chemical attack – Russian or alien maybe, he doesn’t know which – that killed everyone else. But if the rest of the world is dead, why does Michelle hear a car pass above her bedroom?

No one is at ease in this bunker, not with Howard stumbling over the line between prescient hero and gun-toting lunatic. That’s all thanks to Goodman’s crafty performance that makes viewers sympathize with Howard and confidently agree with his logic, while wondering what kind of wine he’d serve with Michelle’s liver. Winstead and Gallagher are engaging too, as people forced to stay on guard, even as they attempt to settle in for the long haul with an unnerving host who may well be their only salvation.

These things usually wrap up with a dramatic escape and an end-title sequence, but don’t expect 10 Cloverfield Lane to be that pedestrian. The movie saves its wildest stuff for last, giving the audience more than a few chances to drop our jaws in confusion, in horror, in awe, and finally, in satisfied giggles. Thanks for the hospitality, Howard.