(2016) In a panicked rush to pack and runaway, Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) calls someone on her cellphone before grabbing a bottle of booze, leaving behind keys and an engagement ring. In her car she hears Ben (voice of Bradley Cooper) on her cellphone: "Michelle, please don't hang up…. I can't believe you just left." Making no response, she shuts him off.
A quarter of an hour after midnight, she hears a radio news report: "Elsewhere today, power has still not been restored to many cities on the southern seaboard. While there has been some inclement weather in the region, the problem seems linked to what authorities are calling a catastrophic power surge that has crippled traffic in the area." Distracted by Ben's repeated attempts to contact her - CRASH!
On a cot surrounded by cinderblock walls, Michelle, partially clothed, regains consciousness with an IV in her arm, the other arm and a leg in a brace chained to the wall. Retrieving her cellphone from across the room with aid of the drip stand, she can't get reception. Through a security door, a large gray-bearded man enters the room: "You need fluids. You were in shock…. I'm going to keep you alive."
Directed by Dan Trachtenberg with scary score (resonant of previous monster movie music) by Bear McCreary, the horror screenplay was a collaboration from Damien Chazelle, Josh Campbell, and Matthew Steucken. Howard (John Goodman) assures terrified Michelle that no one is looking for her because no one else is alive out there.
Given a crutch for her injured knee and a key to release the locks, Michelle demonstrates her resourcefulness to defend herself. "You're lucky to be here at all," says Howard: "There is nowhere to go, Michelle." Bringing her food on a plate, Howard explains that they are in a bomb shelter under his farmhouse, 40 miles outside of Lake Charles, LA.
A chemical or nuclear attack has contaminated the outside atmosphere, by Russians or Martians or some other enemy. "Luckily, I prepared for this," he says, surmising they may have to stay below for a year or two, depending, reminding her that he's responsible for saving her life, so she owes him appreciation for his hospitality and generosity.
Another occupant, Emmett DeWitt (John Gallagher Jr), corroborates Howard's account: "Getting out of here is the last thing you want to do." Alone in her room, she hears what sounds like a car above. Food in storage, aquaponics for fresh air, a generator for electricity, DVDs and a jukebox, jigsaw puzzles & games are available for entertainment. In the bathroom Howard cautions: "Can't afford wasted flushes."
No communications coming from the world beyond. "'Crazy' is building your ark after the flood has already come!" Howard scoffs at the rest of humanity. For further evidence of his sanity and what happens when exposed to the toxic air, he introduces Michelle to Frank and Mildred - "See?" - a couple of grisly pig corpses in the farmyard visible through a window in the sealed door to the outside.
His left arm in a sling, Emmett relates to Michelle, initially under the impression that he too has been kidnapped, how he had to fight his way into the doomsday bunker, which Howard had originally hired him to help construct. Convinced that Howard ran her off the road before abducting her, Michelle isn't persuaded by Emmett's story of witnessing the first flashes of the attack, "something you read about in the Bible," which reminded him of Howard's underground shelter.
In response to Emmett's litany of regrets at the dinner table, Howard says: "Everything I wanted to do, I did. And here we are." Snatching away Howard's keys, Michelle attempts to escape. Before she can unlock the outermost door, a neighbor woman appears on the other side, the skin of her face bloody and peeling away, pleading to be allowed entrance.
"Do not let her in!" shouts Howard: "You can't help her." Needing stitches for a head wound, Howard confesses his fault for the earlier car wreck, an unintentional accident. He gives Michelle clothes that had belonged to his daughter Megan, a photo of whom he shares with her.
When a problem with the air-filtration system requires repair, Michelle is the only one of the three slender enough to crawl through the ventilation ducts. After she returns, she reveals to Emmett something she's seen scratched onto a window above. Persuaded by Michelle's suspicions, Emmett agrees to a partnership with a plan to get away.
"I'm always watching," says Howard during a game of guessing an identity: "I see what you're doing." He shows his fellow survivors a barrel of perchloric acid as a means for disposing of unwanted waste. "This was the way it was always supposed to be," he says to Michelle: "You're safe. Now it's just you and me."
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