10 CLOVERFIELD LANE — Review by Susan Granger

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Fans of J.J. Abrams’ “Cloverfield” (2008), about monsters invading Manhattan, have been eagerly awaiting a sequel – but that’s not what this is. While it’s in the same sci-fi genre, Abrams purposely didn’t call it “Cloverfield 2” and he’s ditched the found-footage gimmick. Instead, Abrams dubs the psychological thriller a “spiritual successor.”

Fleeing from a romantic break-up in New Orleans, Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is knocked unconscious in a horrific car crash on a winding country road somewhere in rural Louisiana.

When she awakens with an I.V. drip in her arm, she’s shackled to the wall in the underground, cinder-block bunker that belongs to an intimidating, conspiracy-theory-obsessed survivalist named Howard (John Goodman), who claims he pulled her from the wreckage and saved her life.

Paranoid Howard tells her that the Russians – or maybe the Martians – dropped The Bomb, making the Earth’s surface radioactive, contaminated and, therefore, uninhabitable for at least a year or so.

“Crazy is building your ark after the flood has already started,” he says.

Scared, confused and skeptical, Michelle is not the only one being held captive. There’s also creepy, enigmatic Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.), a local lad who originally sought refuge in the subterranean shelter but now seems to want to escape as much as she does.

Plus, there’s a subplot involving the mysterious disappearance of Howard’s teenage daughter.

Created and filmed in near-total secrecy under the title “Valencia,” this character-driven, tension-filled tale of terror was written by Josh Campbell, Matthew Stuecken and Damien Chazelle and directed by Adams’ protégé, rookie Dan Trachtenberg, to elicit as much apprehension as possible. The palpable dread is amplified by Jeff Cutter’s cinematography and composer Bear McCreary’s forboding score.

FYI: If you think you recognize the voice of Michelle’s ex-boyfriend on the phone, yes, it’s Bradley Cooper.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “10 Cloverfield Lane” is a suspenseful 7 with a scary conclusion.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.