Overview: I did not see Cloverfield. I cannot medically see Cloverfield as shaky cam makes me nauseous beyond belief. I found out that movie theaters refund your money thanks to Blair Witch Project and things have been limited since then, with even Where the Wild Things Are making me run into the hallway to hyperventilate in an effort to not vomit.
So I was happy that this movie was not the ‘found footage to create immediacy and detract from production values’ style like so many recent ones. I was also happy that John Goodman was in it. I love him. He’s amazing in so much that he does. He’s awesome and an actor who acts, who very quickly is no longer John Goodman but the character he’s portraying.
And thanks to Brain Dead (an awesome show everyone should be watching) I love Mary Elizabeth Winstead. Two actors I like in a movie? Score.
The basic premise is that a woman, Michelle (played by Winstead) is in a car crash. She wakes up chained to a wall in the basement of a man named Howard (John Goodman). She tries to escape and he tells her the world has basically ended. The air is contaminated and the end is nigh, she is in his bunker. It turns out he has opened his doors to another survivor, a man named Emmett. Is he telling the truth or is there something more sinister at play?
The Good: The tension. How it plays off the fear of a man kidnapping a woman because- how many movies are like that? How many news stories? It’s got shades of the Lovely Bones with the woman trapped in the basement, chained. You never know if Howard is fully good or bad.
The pacing is actually good, as well. The tension gets amped up as we go along. As do the questions. There are beats to keep the story from being stagnant. You meet the other survivor. Michelle attempts to escape and sees part of Howard’s story is true- an infected woman slams up against the window. She begins to relax, we relax for a bit, then Michelle finds an SOS message scratched in blood into the surface facing window. And it keeps ramping out.
And it doesn’t end there. The escape montage, like so many movies, the finding out. The final struggle. The escape to learn – some truths can’t be escape. This has you question a heck of a lot of what happened in that bunker.
The Bad: There are questions that we’ll never get an answer to. To some degree, I like that. To others – I can’t help but wonder what happened to certain characters. We don’t really learn much about the characters to see character growth. Howard, we learn he gets creepier but as a character he is the same from beginning to end. The other guy in the bunker is. . .the other guy in the bunker I don’t quite remember his name. He’s there as final motivation, to show us Howard’s temperament in black and white. And at the end Michelle has to make a decision. The clenched jaw tells us it’s a turning point for her, that she’s developed as a person, changed. But it came across a bit over the top for me.
The Female: This won’t pass the Bechdel test (two women, talking to each other, not about a man) because besides the woman who is infected and tries to get inside the bunker, Michelle is it. She is the main character. I do like that the tension is based on the fact that men. hurt. women. A woman picked up by a man, in Disney it’s for saving, in the real world it’s for hurting and that is given room to breathe here. Michelle is allowed to be her own woman in the film, make decisions, and figure the rules out.
Granted, part of the premise IS around the woman in peril and the ending can make some think differently of Howard and the motives. I was thinking of Misery for a bit, because in that a man is kidnapped by a woman, and that’s part of the shock, that a man could do that to a woman. It’s not really shocking in cinema for the opposite to happen.
Overall though, I enjoyed watching it and it kept my attention. AND, I didn’t get motion sickness.