10 Cloverfield Lane aka Valencia (2016)

(Netflix Streaming, November 2016) Much has been written about how 10 Cloverfield Lane started life as a small bunker thriller named Valencia (in fact, hilariously enough, on the film’s first day of availability on Netflix Canada, the only way to find it was to search for “Valencia”), only to be radically altered by the addition of a special-effects-heavy ending to tie it to the so-called “Cloverfield” mythos. That certainly explains the weird change of pace toward the end and the feeling that the result doesn’t entirely belong together. Still, there’s a lot to like in the Valencia part of 10 Cloverfield Lane, as a small-scale thriller located in a confined space, with three characters that are only too willing to inflict harm on each other. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is fine as a young woman on the run who wakes up from a car accident to find herself stuck in a bunker, but John Goodman is impressive as the bunker’s owner, hovering at the edge of sanity with a dangerous streak of aggression. Director Dan Tratchenberg knows how to milk suspense out of a confined environment, and clearly establishes the setting before using it to good effect. (I’ll be honest: That bunker is so nice that I wouldn’t mind spending a few days in there.) The suspense is handled well, and the film plays nicely with unanswered questions for those who don’t know where it’s going. Still, the ending does stick out quite a bit, and I really don’t care if or how or why this film relates to 2009’s Cloverfield. “Anthology series” seems promising, but it would work better if they didn’t play games with the audience. Frankly, I wouldn’t have minded just getting Valencia.

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