With the intention of building on its predecessor Cloverfield‘s success, this quasi-sequel falls short of the heart-thumping, anxious feeling, viewers experienced in the first installment of Producer J.J. Abrams’ Cloverfield franchise.

’10 Cloverfield Lane’ DVD Review

Despite a cast with legitimate acting chops and high-quality cinematography, the storyline drags as John Goodman struggles to find his character’s voice and temperament. Goodman was more believable playing an overbearing father in the cult classic Coyote Ugly than in what should have been a role that signaled his reemergence in the industry.

10 Cloverfield Lane is well-written, but Director Dan Schactenberg is unable to capture the frantic pace and excitement exuded in the first film of the franchise which uses “lost footage” as a tool to take viewers on a ride through Manhattan with a first-person perspective, via a handheld camera.

FILM SYNOPSIS

The second installment of the Cloverfield franchise is set in rural Louisiana, opening with Michelle, played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead and best known for her work in recent Die Hard films, who has just left a “Dear John” letter for her boyfriend (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and hits the road en route to a new beginning.

The journey is cut short about 30 seconds into her ride when Michelle’s vehicle is struck by a pickup truck, sending the car spinning, flipping and ultimately careening off of trees and guard rails before settling to a stop.

Michelle comes too, waking in a dingy room that appears as if it where housed in a basement, with a knee-injury and dried blood pasted to her head and face. Her knee is wrapped in a brace that is chained to a wall next to the cot she was sleeping on, while she notices a makeshift I.V. is connected to a bag of saline positioned behind her.

Immediately viewers are compelled to feel the same empathy, anxiousness and confusion that were hallmarks of the Saw series. Soon Howard (Goodman) enters to check on Michelle’s health and well-being, informing her that she is in an underground bunker he built and she will not be permitted to leave due to an attack on the surface above.

Howard explains that he rescued Michelle from the car wreck and offers her crutches to help her move around. Sensing something isn’t right, Michelle carves the tip of one of the crutches into a sharpened point and when Howard comes to check on her again she attempts to attack him with it.

GOODMAN IN COYOTE UGLY

Howard explains that the attack above has rendered all of the air above toxic and therefore, Michelle will not be permitted to leave, while reiterating that he saved her life.

When Michelle leaves the room for the first time she discovers that she and Howard are not alone.

A man named Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.), close in age to Michelle, is sitting in an adjacent room with one arm in a sling that he say was broken. He later explains that he helped Howard build the bunker over the past few years and he was injured after witnessing the attack, and forcing his way into the underground habitat as Howard began to seal the doors.

JOHN GALLAGHER JR. FROM NEWSROOM

The uneasiness, for both Michelle and the viewer subsides when the three sit down for dinner together. Michelle and Emmett begin to flirt which angers Howard who tells them “I know what you’re doing.”

Michelle manages to get her hands on Howard’s keys and after a loud clamoring distracts him, she breaks a beer bottle on his head and rushes up a ladder toward the airlock for the world above. As Michelle reaches the door she is met by a woman who’s face is decaying from some sort of chemical reaction.

The woman (Suzanne Cryer) is pleading for Michelle to let her into the bunker but Howard urges his new tenant not to permit the woman access, fearing she could contaminate the only breathable air the three have left.

Michelle struggles to decide while the woman becomes agitated, banging her head violently against the glass in the door until she draws blood. Michelle heeds Howard’s advice and climbs back down to their living space.

MARY ELIZABETH WINSTEAD ON LATE SHOW WITH STEPHEN COLBERT

From there, the trio begins to work together like a family, divvying up chores and cooking. Howard gives Michelle clothes that belonged to “his daughter Megan,” and the three act as a family, playing board games and watching videotapes of old movies.

After the air-infiltration system shows signs of breaking down, Howard request Michelle climb into the ventilation system in order to find out the problem, insisting she is the only one small enough to fit inside.

Upon reaching her destination Michelle discovers the word “HELP” scratched on the inside of the glass hatch separating the bunker from the ground, with some of the letters stained in blood.

Moments later Michelle finds a pair of bloody earrings identical to those worn by Megan in the picture Howard showed her. After sharing her discovery with Emmett, he tells her that the girl in the photo went to high school with his younger sisters and her name is Brittany, “She went missing a couple years back,” he says.

After a couple scenes of calm, Michelle attempts to escape again using a hazmat suit she fashioned from her shower curtain, but before she can execute her plan, Howard confronts the two about tools that were missing from his collection and shoots Emmett in the head, killing him.

Michelle gains the courage to escape again, but Howard catches her. Michelle dumps a vat of acid on Howard and then turns a set of shelving over on top of him, she eventually makes it to the surface where birds are flying in the sky overhead and it all seems normal.

Soon an alien form arrives spraying a green gas over Michelle, but she rushes to put her mask back on in time to be safe from the toxic fumes. Michelle eventually gains access to a vehicle on the property and drives off.

While riding, a transmission is heard on the radio requesting assistance in Houston, claiming “we have retaken the southern seaboard.” Faced with a fork in the road, one way north to Baton Rouge, or west to Houston, Michelle turns left toward Houston and the film ends.

There are compelling scenes throughout, but the middle of the film drags painfully as the plot’s development is stagnant.

Goodman is scary, but only because he is a large man, whose back-story appears to include the kidnapping of young girls whom he is delusional in believing to be his daughter Megan. At times he struggles struggles to remain consistent within the character.

That plot thread surrounding his kidnapping is never sewn up, more so thrown out there to create fear, suspense, and ultimately, is never tied up or resolved.

There are several highlights in the cinematography, led by Jeff Cutter, including a shot from inside Michelle’s gas mask as she tries to escape, harkening back to the frantic suspense created by the first film’s handheld model.

10 Cloverfield Lane is better than watchable, but between the inconsistency in Goodman’s playing of Howard, the failure to tie up loose ends, and the lulls in the middle of the film, viewers will come away disappointed.

Lets hope the third film closes the loop and offers more continuity in the pace of the plot.

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