Directed by Dan Trachtenberg
Written by Josh Campbell, Matthew Stuecken and Damien Chazelle
Starring: John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Gallagher Jr.
IMDb 7.2/10 Rotten Tomatoes 90% Freshness Metacritic 76/100
Howard Stambler- middle aged tense and angry man who has a master’s degree in paranoia and conspiracy theories, owner and builder of the fallout shelter/bunker buried under his house, lost his daughter, saved Michelle after car crash, reports that there has been an attack on the US and the air and environment above is contaminated
Okay, so, this movie has been out for a little over two years. I was excited to watch this film because of John Goodman starring in it. I felt like, with what I’d seen over the years, that he’d be good to watch in this type of film, kinda like the film Fallen. And I must say he did NOT disappoint. In fact, nobody did.
So, in this story we have Michelle. She just left her boyfriend and is on her way out of town. While driving, she gets into a car accident. Next thing she knows, she wakes up on a mattress in an underground shelter bound to a wall by chains.
Howard is the man who owns the shelter. He tells her that he saved her after the car crash and brought her there to keep her alive, due to the massive contamination of the surface from whatever attack has happened.
She soon meets Emmett and after the initial shock of everything, believe it or not, they start to live a fairly normal family type lifestyle. Michelle grows to trust these two men, even though they are complete strangers and even returns Emmett’s subtle flirtations, which obviously angers Howard.
Howard consistently treats Michelle like a little girl, comparing her directly and indirectly to his daughter, who is no longer “with us”, according to Howard. He becomes very possessive and controlling of her, bordering on treating her like an object instead of a person.
Eventually, the air filtration system malfunctions and Michelle is enlisted by Howard to crawl into the vents and fix it as she is the only one small enough to fit. While in the utility room (for lack of a better term) she finds evidence that Howard may be lying to them.
She discusses this with Emmett and they hatch a plan for her to make a gas mask and suit. But, eventually, Howard catches wind of this plot and Emmett is killed in the confrontation over it. Michelle seizes that moment to try to escape and arms herself with the haz-mat outfit and crawls through the air vents once again and eventually to her safety outside. Or so she thinks.
This is where the story twists and people either like it or hate it.
Once she gets up top on the Earth’s surface she removes her gas mask and finds that the air is fine. She is certain that Howard was lying. But, then she is attacked by a robotic alien like creature and it chases her down. She finally defeats it by heaving a Molotov cocktail into its ship and uses Howard’s truck to head out of town. She hears on the radio a distress call from Houston asking for anyone who can help to go there and render aide. She also hears a radio announcement stating that all survivors should head to Baton Rouge for evacuation. She thinks for a minute and then heads off to Houston to continue her fight.
Okay, so the creepiest thing for me about this film, and yes maybe I watch too much true crime television, is that the whole idea of a man kidnapping a woman and keeping her in a bunker because he’s delusional or psychotic or whatever the clinical term is, REALLY does happen. They just don’t usually get away with it that long but, it does happen. Now, the whole BUNKER thing, I don’t know, but women have been held for years in houses, basements, closets, tents in yards, boxes under waterbeds, chained to furniture or walls. There have been men who have BUILT bunkers in preparation for holding sex slaves but they rarely got the chance to use them, at least not that I am aware of.
Now, I did read an article published about the meaning behind the film. This was a very interesting take on the premise of the movie. It explained that the film was a metaphor for domestic violence and abuse. (I have looked for the article I read but I can’t find the exact one. However, if you Google it, you’ll find a few on the subject.)
Howard DOES seem abusive and extremely controlling from the very beginning. And they do use his dialogue as a means of foreshadowing and hinting at you that something just isn’t right even though he seems to be explaining things to his “guests”. He throws his position of power around and uses it against them. He also requires that they just take his word on everything with no questions. Questions make him angry…and it seems, a little flustered and confused.
What I thought was pretty impressive was that there were only four actors on screen throughout the whole movie and really only three IN the movie. The fourth actor was on screen less than five minutes and there WAS a fifth actor but we only hear his voice. That’s pretty good, in my opinion. I thought the acting was great. The writing was well done and the dialogue was equally written and delivered in effortless grace. John Goodman was an excellent choice for the part of Howard. We all know he plays angry and miserable very well. You add demented and sad, sprinkle him with some delusional thoughts and a little psychosis and a penchant for violence and you’ve got our good ol’ boy here.
I really did like this film. As psychological thrillers go, it’s a keeper. I’m glad it’s one that I bought because I will definitely be watching it again.