It should go without saying that if you read a review of a film that you have not already seen and/or are planning to see that you should tread lightly. Some sites will not post a helpful “SPOILER ALERT” warning and just unload tons of plot details on the unsuspecting reader and thus you will know way too much about the film before actually going to the theatre yourself to watch it. I pride myself on not doing any spoilerific reviews without a giant warning beforehand but this will be a delicate one to talk about because the trailers have given away almost no details about any aspects of it. So I warn you, readers, enjoy this review but bear in mind you may read about plot details that may spoil certain things for you.
The film takes place as a teary-eyed woman (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) has just broken up with her boyfriend and is driving down the road amidst reports of blackouts throughout the country. After getting into the craziest and most intense car accident caught on film (I may be exaggerating but it was hella intense), she wakes up in an underground bunker controlled by an odd, domineering man named Walter (John Goodman). There she is told that there has been an attack above ground and that they are safe down there where the air is still breathable. There is also a young man (John Gallagher Jr.) in the bunker with them as well whose background I will not reveal for you here. The crux of the film is the two younger characters trying to figure out if there really is something going on above them and what it is while trying to figure out Goodman’s motivations at the same time.
This is a great film. While I enjoyed Cloverfield, this was a much stronger idea with the excellent use of claustrophobic spaces and psychological horror over handi-cams and blurry monsters. A film like this has some qualities similar to a play with very few locations and a lot of character moments shining through from the writing and performances alone. All three main actors are excellent. John Goodman does a great job of making you wonder about where he stands throughout the entire film and he has little tics that make him a more fleshed-out character. Goodman is a solid combination of sympathetic and uneasy; you just don’t know where you stand with the guy. Mary Elizabeth Winstead has long been a favourite of mine. She is cute as a button but she can also kick ass in these types of films from an emotional and physical standpoint. She displays a great range here too that she doesn’t get the opportunity to do in other films. John Gallagher Jr. is also solid as Emmett. Here’s an actor who I am not familiar with in the least but he makes the most of his part. Like I said, all three actors carry their weight and deliver in spades.
I think what impressed me the most about this film are the quiet moments between characters and the fact that most of the horror and tension arises from these moments. Unlike most modern horror films that are boring up until a jump scare here and there, this is a film that scares its audience by ramping up the tension more and more as we progress through the film. I will say that the tagline of the film is very interesting and made me a lot more aware of what I had just witnessed once it was all over.
Many people wonder: is it related to Cloverfield? Is it a direct sequel? Is the Cloverfield monster in the film? The answers are as follows: kinda, no, and I can’t say. It is related to the first film insofar as it seems to take place in the same kind of world I suppose but that’s about as close as it gets. It is definitely not a sequel and it would be a huge spoiler to go any further than that. Tremendous film from start to finish – don’t miss it.
* (Brutal; the worst rating)
** (Some elements keep it from being awful but still not very good)
*** (Completely watchable; a rental as old-timers might say)
**** (Great film with a few things here and there keeping it from being perfect)
***** (Flawless; a true achievement)