FILM OF THE WEEK: 10 Cloverfield Lane (15) ****

Two's company, three's a paranoia-riddled crowd in 10 Cloverfield Lane, a thrilling companion piece to the 2008 found footage, sci-fi Cloverfield, which witnessed an otherworldly attack on New York City through the lens of a resident's camcorder.

Friday, 18th March 2016, 6:00 am
PA Photo/Paramount.

The monsters in Dan Trachtenberg’s suffocating three-hander are distinctly human but no less terrifying, driven to acts of violence and barbarity in the name of self-preservation.

Josh Campbell, Matt Stuecken and Damien Chazelle’s deliciously ambiguous script shifts the balance of power between characters whose ulterior motives are shrouded in mystery.

Every time we think we have a grasp on the slippery narrative, the film pulls another rug from under us, flinging us into a mire of nerve-jangling confusion.

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In an affectionate nod to Hitchcock’s Psycho, the director cranks up the tension with opening shots of a young woman, Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), driving away from her old life in the city.

She stops for petrol and takes a pleading telephone call from her boyfriend Ben (voiced by Bradley Cooper) shortly before her car spins out of control and plummets down a bank.

She regains consciousness in an underground bunker, at the mercy of a survivalist called Howard Stambler (John Goodman).

As she regains her strength, Michelle learns that Howard saved her and his neighbour Emmett (John Gallagher Jr) shortly before a devastating global attack rendered the surface of the Earth uninhabitable.

The trio are safely cocooned within an airtight bunker, 40 feet below the polluted surface without any telephone signal, until the air is breathable again.

The survivors have water, food and electricity thanks to Howard’s forward planning, and make the best of a hellish situation.

However, Michelle isn’t sure if she can trust Howard.

10 Cloverfield Lane is a polished masterclass in suggestion that sends chills down the spine with unsettling regularity.

Goodman is genuinely creepy as the conspiracy theorist who doesn’t tolerate defiance of his rules.

Winstead and Gallagher Jr are equally strong as discombobulated house guests, who harbour secrets that could destroy them or set them free.

Trachtenberg’s direction draws on the claustrophobic setting to plant seeds of doubt and suspicion, including a couple of thrilling action sequences with unexpected pay-offs.