10 Cloverfield Lane
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10 Cloverfield Lane

If Sam Shepard ever goofed around with the alien horror genre, he might have come up with something like this surprisingly effective thriller.

There were actually three writers at work here, including Damien Chazelle, who proved his knack at tension with the remarkable ‘Whiplash’.  Their story, wrapped around the fate of a young woman kidnapped after a terrible car accident, spends most of its time, as does she, caught in a hermetically sealed bunker, created by her enigmatic savior and the sweet young man who helped him build it. Howard has stockpiled and bolted, sensing some kind of attack would be coming. He, if no one else, would be ready.  Yet, when he explains to the woman that he is actually protecting her from the chemical attack that has decimated the world outside, she warily refuses to completely believe him.

Director Dan Trachtenberg keeps the claustrophobic proceedings moving along and adds a few really cute music bits, thanks to the jukebox of oldies Howard has thoughtfully moved into the not so Spartan living quarters. But what makes this all the more effective are the three super performances playing it out. An almost unrecognizable John Gallagher Jr makes for a most winning third wheel, but it’s a terrific Mary Elizabeth Winstead and a sensational John Goodman who pull us in and never let go. Each gamely brings a most enthusiastic life to their role; together, playing off of one another, they are especially fun to watch, giving this impressive but still simplistic exercise in fun a kind of quality we might not ordinarily expect.

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