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07 September 2016

Really scary scare movies are scarce

Mary Elizabeth Winstead and John Goodman bunker down in "10 Cloverfield Lane." (https://media3.popstar-assets.com)

I've always admired the work of excellent character actor and sometimes leading man John Goodman

Although I've gone out of my way for about 35 years to never act like a movie fan boy, especially while in the presence of film stars I was interviewing, I've always felt a fondness for Goodman, and the reason goes back decades.

Early in Goodman's career, and I'm pretty sure it was when I interviewed him for Everybody's All-American (starring Dennis Quaid and Jessica Lange) in 1988 in Los Angeles, Goodman revealed his blue-collar life plan.

Whether he was kidding or not, the St. Louis native, who makes his home in New Orleans, said that when he was growing up, he worried about how he would make a living.  "I always thought that if I could just get a plumber's license, I could make an honest living," Goodman said.

He's done quite well for himself without ever having to snake a toilet (professionally anyway).  Goodman has never been nominated for an Academy Award but probably should have.  He's a Golden Globe winner for playing Roseanne Barr's blue-collar TV husband in the popular sitcom Roseanne for over 220 episodes from 1988-1997.

Much of Goodman's movie work has been lending his voice to animated characters, James P. "Sully" Sullivan in Monsters, Inc. to name just one.  I prefer to see the seemingly imposing figure on screen, though, as Walter Sobchak in The Big Lebowski (1998) or John Chambers in Argo (2012).

As we say in journalism, I'm sort of burying the lead here, but that brings me to Goodman's excellent work in 10 Cloverfield Lane, a dramatic horror-mystery that opened in March but  can now be summoned "on demand" to send some shivers up your spine in the discomfort of your own home.

No one will accuse 10 Cloverfield Lane of being the scariest movie of all time.  Let's just call it a blue-collar thriller that might just keep you guessing long into the final reel.  Goodman stars opposite relative newcomers Mary Elizabeth Winstead and John Gallagher Jr.

Michelle (Winstead), not unlike Janet Leigh's Marion Crane in Alfred Hitchcock's legendary mystery-thriller Psycho (1960), is running away from trouble, only to find something worse on the road.  She wakes up from being knocked unconscious in a car crash to find herself locked in an underground bunker with a gruff hulk of a man named Howard (Goodwin) and Emmett (Gallagher), who appears just as mysteriously weird.

They can't leave, Michelle is told, because something has happened -- an attack of some kind.  The air is not safe and they  are out there?

I like the way director Dan Trachtenberg, also a relative newcomer making the transition from TV, keeps us guessing.  Is it all just a horrific hoax to keep a young woman trapped in the lair of a bear of a man with strict -- maybe too strict -- rules?

Or is something really out there?

I'm not telling.  I'll just say that my wife Suellen and I have seen scores of supposedly scary thrillers that fell short.

10 Cloverfield Lane does not. 



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