From Grindhouse to Final Destination 3 and The Thing, horror-lover Mary Elizabeth Winstead has become a storied scream queen. But her latest dive into this deadly genre might be her most compelling yet. In 10 Cloverfield Lane, the American ingénue takes the Final Girl trope into twisted new realms as she battles monsters real and extraterrestrial.
A blood relative to the 2008 hit Cloverfield, 10 Cloverfield Lane explores the first film's cinematic world within the claustrophobic confines of an underground bunker. John Goodman stars as a conspiracy theorist who rules with an iron-fist over his bunker mates, a dopey but affable neighbor (John Gallagher Jr.) and an out-of-towner who's desperate to leave (Winstead). But escape could be even more complicated if captor's apocalyptic proclamations aren't all paranoia.
Screen Rant sat down with Winstead in New York to discuss 10 Cloverfield Lane's unique and thrilling blend of genres, its feminist Final Girl, and what blood-relative movie she'd like its potential success to inspire.
Screen Rant: So you’ve done a lot of horror movies. What, for you, do you think sets 10 Cloverfield Lane apart?
Mary Elizabeth Winstead: 10 Cloverfield Lane for me, I wouldn’t really describe it as strictly horror. I think it’s kind of a blend of genres. I think, first and foremost, it’s a suspense movie, which we don’t really see a lot of anymore. It’s really about the suspense and tension and drama. There’s a lot of psychological drama as well, set against the backdrop of this bigger horror genre action, sci-fi kind of landscape. I love that it has so many elements of it. You can’t quite fit it into any one box.
Screen Rant: Yeah. Watching it was really fun because I think you can’t, as a viewer, get totally comfortable because you keep realizing all these different things and you are trying to figure out, like, where am I supposed fit in at? Instead, it kind of keeps you on this level of anxiety of, like, “You don’t know what kind of movie…” It also reminded me of Doomsday Preppers. Have you ever watched that show?
Mary Elizabeth Winstead: Oh, yes. I’ve caught this here and there. That’s scary.
Screen Rant: Yeah. It’s a very specific mindset. And watching it I was like, “Yes. Oh, I know these people.”
Mary Elizabeth Winstead: Oh, I know. And that’s the thing. He’s such a fascinating character because he’s crazy and he’s got a lot of issues, but he’s sort of right. There’s something to be said for his theories and everything. So it’s sort of like, “OK. Well, do I believe him and go along with this or do I just say this guy creeps me out and get the hell out of here?”
Screen Rant: It’s also interesting because Michelle still is a competent character. So there’s this theme of this man deciding, like, “I know what’s best for you,” and then her fighting back. So there’s this feminist subtext that feels very topical right now. Was that part of the allure for you in doing the film?
Mary Elizabeth Winstead: It definitely was. And it was also kind of a fine balance to walk. I didn’t want to sort of overshoot the mark with it being, “Oh, she’s going to really be terrified of this guy but then she’s going to get back at him at the end.” I didn’t want to have it be that too much. I wanted her to be strong from the get-go and not have to be hurt by him in order to find her strength in the end. So I like that she was sort of fighting back from the beginning. And they have their struggles and they are scrappy and they fight. And they have their ups and downs. But there’s not that sort of allegory that we see a lot where it’s sort of like some awful thing has to happen to her in order for her to become the strong person that she’s meant to be. She’s strong. The minute we see her she’s strong. I thought that was so cool.
Screen Rant: Exactly. It was really fun as a horror viewer to watch that because she’s a final girl, but not the kind of final girl we often see. It’s really rewarding. So they’re calling this a blood relative to Cloverfield. Is there any other horror movie you would like to do a blood relative spinoff type movie with?
Mary Elizabeth Winstead: Gosh. I would say…I mean my ultimate, ultimate favorite is The Shining. But it’s sort of hard to touch as well. If there was anything that could be done at that level. I don’t know it’d be a spinoff or it’d be connected, but just at that level of creepiness and artistry. I mean that’s like the height of the genre to me and something that I would want to be a part of.
10 Cloverfield Lane opens in theaters March 11, 2016.