To start with, it's difficult to call "10 Cloverfield Lane" a horror movie, particularly when it falls much more into the suspense thriller genre. There isn't much here that actually can be based on today's low-set standards for horror movies, which have been set pretty low in the last twenty years. "Cloverfield 2" actually seems to make itself more at home in a kind of loosely based "Hitchcock" category. What I really am happy with is a chance to see John Goodman get his own vehicle for a change, starring in this movie as a major conspiracy theorist who rescues a girl from a car accident. John's a really great actor, who unfortunately had very few movies that he actually starred in. And he's been in how many, over two hundred? But let's remember this, he's an actor, not one of Hollywood's Obnoxious Elite, the way George Clooney, Ben Affleck and Bill Murray are. John acts, and he makes no self-promotional attempt to sell himself as a great actor. But hey! Let's get back to the movie before I forget it.
For one thing, you need to understand this is not the usual idea or setting for a horror movie. While it does have an almost "Saw"-like set-up, this movie is so far removed from that idea once you understand what is actually happening. It sort of reminds me of the mini-series, Stephen King's "Under the Dome", in certain aspects. The idea of absolute isolation for the lead character opposite John Goodman--however temporary--is a great way to start with the suspense. She really has no idea where she is or who the wacko is who's imprisoned her there or why. All she has to go on is his story that he rescued her from a car accident, which is true enough. Goodman plays a very tense, powerful, dominating character named Howard who is only interested in keeping those he can save safe. I mean, sure, he wants to be shown a little gratitude, and he says this as much, but in his mind he's not being overly demanding. But keep in mind that Howard is a whacked-out conspiracy theorist nut job. Buuut, once you get passed that LITTLE detail, a person might well be able to get along with Howard, considering the girl (Michelle) discovers she's being kept in a fallout shelter(for her own protection-?) that Howard and some other guy built over the years. And Goodman is a very powerful man, both as a man(physically and emotionally) and as an actor. It's so easy to enjoy a movie with him in it, because he's such a built-in character in anything he does, and you automatically get absorbed into any character he's playing, and you just simply go for the ride. And he might very well be the driver! lol
Mary Elizabeth Winstead plays Michelle, who takes off from her home in New Orleans after a break-up with her husband, to find herself in a car accident while paying more attention to her cell phone than to her driving. This is only more evidence that cell phones are becoming one of the leading causes of car accidents everywhere. Just saying! If talking on a cell phone is more important to you, then pull the hell over and pick up the stupid phone! Otherwise, it can bloody wait! Anyway, Michelle is someone who's a fighter, not exactly what Howard expects when he chains her to the wall while treating her wounds. And although she comes to believe what Howard tells her about a mysterious attack that has rendered the air toxic on the surface, she still doesn't like the idea of staying in a hiding place while it's possible to look for fellow survivors on the outside. From here on out, the movie reaches a fever pitch in a major battle of wits between Michelle and Howard, and she has to be very careful with her plan, once we see just what kind of person he really is. The rest of the movie I'll leave to the fans who want to see it and haven't had the chance yet, so I won't spoil it. I'm a nice guy that way!
What's great about this movie is that it isn't typical of the usual popcorn fare that we've had to put up with for so long now. And I still defend that this is not a horror movie, it is a suspense thriller movie. If I had to use a movie comparison for it to help put this in context, then I'll suggest "Misery"(the movie based on Stephen King's novel) to help you understand the perspective better. Nope, no pigs or Kathy Bates in this movie! But what's REALLY GREAT about this movie is that it is not that tired, cliched, hand-held camera garbage that so many "filmmakers" have used since the end of horror movies began with "The Blair Witch Project" so long ago. The production is great and the tension is very much where it needs to be; on its three actors, and the story that they have to convince us is very real. And luckily for them and us, they do a great job of it.
I don't know what JJ Abrams' involvement is in this besides producer, but the movie is a stand-alone effort of something that is worth watching, in a recent history of horror/sci-fi movies that have been much more forgettable than entertaining. You could do so much worse than this in terms of finding something to watch on any given day. Like say, Quentin Tarantino's "The Hateful Eight", which was exactly what the title implies.
What anybody expects to see after this movie is hard to say, although Mary Elizabeth Winstead has already expressed interest in coming back for a sequel. Whether Abrams is planning to be part of the next movie or not is hard to say at the moment; as most people know, his ego takes a separate car than he does when he goes somewhere, same as Ben Affleck.