After surviving a car accident, Michelle Burke (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) wakes up in an underground cellar, where most of the film takes place. She fears she has been abducted by a survivalist named Howard Stambler (John Goodman) who tells her he saved her life, and that a worldwide chemical attack has left Earth’s surface uninhabitable. Stambler is a fanatical doomsday prepper, and much of his missives read like the paranoid ramblings of an overly-concerned father. Uncertain what to believe, Burke decides she must escape, no matter what dangers she may face outside.
Michelle, a young woman who’s running from a failed marriage when she’s caught up in a mysterious car crash. When she comes to, Michelle finds she’s stuck in a small concrete room with a massive locked door, her leg shackled to the wall. It’s a set-up straight out of Saw, and it’s the first time the movie throws us off balance. It all feels a little too serious, somehow; too reminiscent of gritty, low-budget horror for a movie with Abrams’ name on it.
Then Howard enters, and explains to Michelle that he’s actually rescued her: there’s been some sort of attack, he tells her, and everybody outside is dead. But they’re tucked away inside his underground bunker, where they’ve got enough supplies to stay safe and sound for as long as is necessary.
While 10 Cloverfield Lane has its share of laughs, it’s most certainly not a comedy the way Cabin was, but it is similarly smart in that it knows exactly what the audience is going to expect from its initial set-up. And from there, it can use those expectations in whatever way it wants to — to upset the audience, frighten them, or to engender their sympathy in surprising ways.
Director: Dan Trachtenberg
Character to watch: Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Michelle Burke.
Journal your answers to the following questions after you watch the movie.
- How does this particular character’s journey compare with yours?
- Did the character develop certain characteristics during the movie that you have or that you would like to have? If so, what are those characteristics?
- What obstacles did this character face? What was his or her biggest challenge?
- What would you have done differently if you had been in the same position as the character?
- Is this character the type of person you would be friends with? Why or why not?