Directed by Dan Trachtenberg
Available now on digital download; on Blu-ray and DVD from July 25
Dan Trachtenberg’s thriller came out of nowhere and is best served with very little prior knowledge. Billed as being a blood relative to Matt Reeves’ 2008 found footage monster movie Cloverfield, this is more conventional fare which relies on the viewer knowing no more than the on-screen characters. And what a voyage of discovery it is.
In a world of sequels, prequels, reboots and reimaginings it’s a novelty to have a film touted as a ‘spiritual successor’ to another. This deliberately ambiguous connection is necessary if the movie is to deliver its story to its greatest effect. The premise is simple: Michelle breaks up with her boyfriend, is involved in a car crash and wakes up to find herself cuffed to the wall of an underground shelter. Her abductor (John Goodman) maintains he’s actually her saviour and that they are under attack.
Goodman is superb as the impenetrable Howard; while we suspect that he’s probably lying, there’s enough doubt to wonder if there really is an invasion happening – be it a foreign force or alien attack. Or maybe he’s just deluded, paranoid or a calculating psychotic? Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s Michelle is a convincing everywoman, trying to make the best of the situation while looking for ways to validate her beliefs and to question what’s happening. And finally there’s Emmett, an apparently benign friend of Howard who actually opted to be in the bunker from his own free will.
So, what is the truth? As you’d expect there’s plenty of twists and turns along the way as we see the world through Michelle’s eyes. As the teen-friendly 12A certificate suggests, this isn’t a violent movie, but the tension is as intense as any adult thriller. And when the big reveals come… no, you wouldn’t thank me for that. This isn’t one of those clue-gathering tales where everything is hidden in plain sight – information is only served when pertinent to the narrative. This means that when matters do resolve themselves (and be reassured that there is a resolution) you’re not kicking yourself for missing the obvious, but equally you might feel slightly cheated that you couldn’t reasonably have worked it out.
Verdict: A clever, engaging, Twilight Zone-style tale that thrills and surprises in equal measure. Just don’t let anyone spoil it for you. 8/10
The Blu-ray release includes over 30 minutes of special features including Duck and Cover (below) – with some rather spoiler-filled – as well as an intriguing commentary from JJ Abrams and Dan Trachtenberg (which answers many of the qustions about the production, if not everything that audiences may want!) (PS)