Back in 2008, my girlfriend (now wife) and I went to see Cloverfield. A movie shrouded in mystery and speculation. (No, I never believed the Voltron theory.) At the time, it was a very unique movie-going experience. The found footage gimmick had not been overused, and was an interesting way to present a giant monster movie, even though it did make my wife sick. Here we are 8 years later, and there’s another movie with Cloverfield in the title. While this is still produced by J. J. Abrams, Dan Trachtenberg was brought in to direct. In the two months between announcement and release, both were very clear that this movie is not a sequel to Cloverfield. Instead, it’s more of a “blood relative” to the movie. That they would like to do a sort of “Twilight Zone” thing with the Cloverfield movies. But what does that mean?
First off, the shaky cam footage is gone. Well, mostly. I’ll get into that later. Most notably, the movie does not start off where Cloverfield ended. Cloverfield ends (spoiler alert) with what we presume to be a nuclear bomb going off in Manhattan to take care of the giant monster. Also, the characters seem to have no knowledge of what happened in New York. The connections are really just Easter eggs. Company and product names that were in Cloverfield are also present in this movie.
Also linking the two movies is that we really don’t know what is going on in 10 Cloverfield Lane. Even at the end of the movie, I still left with questions. Of course, I believe these types of movies work best when there are still unanswered questions at the end. Personally, I watch to enjoy the experience, and not create a checklist of questions I want answered before the movie ends.
It’s going to be impossible to really discuss this movie without giving away spoilers, otherwise I can only tell you that 3 people are in a bunker. So, after the page break and image, there will a lot of spoilers. Like, seriously, everything will be spoiled. You’ve been warned. And also, I may have mis-remembered the exact timing of things, but it should be pretty accurate.
You’re still with me? This is your last chance.
Alright, I’m not responsible if you read something you didn’t want to know.
The movie opens showing Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) quickly packing up some of her belongings, noting that she’s leaving an engagement ring behind. She’s seen stopping for gas once, slightly leery of a truck that also pulls up, but nothing comes of it. Back in the car, her fiance Ben (voiced by Bradley Cooper) tries to convince her to stay. During a second call, she gets into an accident and the car flips over several times.
Michelle wakes up in a barren room with an IV in her arm, and a knee brace on that itself is handcuffed to a pole. Howard (John Goodman) comes in and explains that he rescued her, and that he can’t take her to a hospital because there’s been an attack and the air is contaminated. Of course she’s skeptical. Howard leaves her the key to the handcuffs and Michelle comes up with a plan to escape while he’s gone. Of course this plan fails. Howard then takes her to the outer door of the bunker and shows her a couple of his pigs that were outside and are gruesomely dead. Michelle notices a truck parked outside that’s been in an accident and has red paint scratched on its side. She remembers this truck hitting her and running her off the road. Around this time, Michelle also meets another occupant, Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.). She asks him if he injured his arm (it’s in a sling) trying to escape, and he says that he injured it trying to get in. He had helped Howard build the bunker, and after seeing a large flash of light like nothing he had ever seen, he fought to get in.
At this point in the movie, I definitely don’t trust Howard. He’s too fidgety. He has nothing concrete that anything has happened. Just his word. Sure, Emmett has corroborated Howard’s story to a degree, but I also don’t trust Emmett. I don’t know why I don’t trust him, but I find it too convenient that there just happens to be someone else in the bunker that will vouch for Howard’s story.
Things get tense(r) at a “family” dinner. Emmett starts telling some jokes about how long they’ll be down there, and this annoys Howard. Michelle picks up on this, and starts engaging/flirting with Emmett which really annoys Howard. Howard removes her from the chair, pushes her a against a wall, and yells at her about being appreciative about all he’s done for her. She uses this opportunity to lift his keys from his belt. When he notices that the keys are gone, she hits him in the head with a bottle, and makes a run for it. When she reaches the outer door, she sees a car with its lights on outside. Howard, who’s stuck behind an inner door pleads for her to not open the door. A woman appears outside the outer door window, begging for help and to be let in. Her skin appears diseased. After Michelle won’t let her in, she begins banging her head on the window until Michelle goes back down.
Here, things really calm down. Howard confesses that he ran Michelle off the road in his rush to get home and in the bunker. Opens up a bit about his life, including showing Michelle a picture of his daughter, Megan. All 3 start to adjust to life in the bunker with each other. There are some rumblings from the outside world. Possibly a roar, maybe a chopper, but they don’t worry too much about it. This was an interesting point in the movie. We’ve seen Howard lose his cool, but he’s been kind of proven right. It has been confirmed that something is going on out there. Sure, he may be a little crazy, but all he’s done is help out a stranger and is carrying a gun to protect himself from someone he doesn’t fully know. Howard’s been changed from weird psycho killer to eccentric conspiracy theorist who’s preparation saved them. And then the air filtration system needs resetting.
Michelle has to crawl through the ducts to get to the switch for the system. She gets it turned back on, but notices a ladder that leads to a hatch to the outside. She climbs the ladder to find the hatch locked. However, she sees that someone scratched “Help me” on window from the inside. At the bottom of the ladder, she finds an earring. She tells Emmett about the earring and shows him the picture of Megan. Emmett tells her that this is actually a picture of a girl that went missing a while ago. (Maybe 2 years, but I can’t remember.) They then find a Polaroid of Howard with the girl, and she’s wearing the same shirt that Michelle currently has on. They devise a plan in which she improvises a hazmat suit and a gas mask from instructions in a doomsday prep book. The plan is that one of them will leave and try to find help.
Maybe I’m just not trusting of others, but I still don’t trust Emmett at this point. I kept thinking that he could have ulterior motives. I mean, what if he was trying to get Howard out of the way so that he could do what he wanted with Michelle, and Howard, crazy as he was, is actually protecting her. But all of that is pretty quickly answered.
Howard has Michelle and Emmett help him bring a large barrel into his room. Turns out, the barrel is full of acid. He tells them that he’s found some cutting things, and demands to know what’s going on. Emmett tells him that he was planning on making a weapon to take Howard’s gun and apologizes Howard shoots him in the head. Michelle goes back to her room and tries to hurriedly finish the suit. Howard, who’s now clean shaven and decently dressed, finds the suit and goes ballistic. Some serious shit hits the fan, but eventually Michelle gets out. She gets out to find birds flying, and takes off the gas mask. She looks around and sees what appears to be an alien ship flying in the distance. She gets attacked by some strange alien creature. She gets it distracted, and makes a run (shaky cam) for the farmhouse because there may be lights on. The creature chases her until the big ship shows up over the house. The creature peels off as a green dust starts to come from the ship. Michelle has to hurry to get the gas mask back on, but this saves her from the toxic spray. She’s later picked up by the ship while in a pickup truck, but improvises a molotov cocktail and blow up the ship, which may have just been a flying creature. She gets in the woman’s car from earlier, and drives off. And oh yeah, the address is 10 Cloverfield Lane. As Michelle is driving away, she hears a radio broadcast that says they have taken back the southern coast and need help in Houston. So, she heads to Houston.
So, that’s it. It was actually aliens. Well, maybe. Who knows. I can believe they’re aliens, but there’s no proof that they aren’t just ancient mole people. But that’s not what’s important. What is important is that this was a wonderful, suspenseful, tense movie. It had twists that made sense in the narrative of the movie. It had me guessing, like all good mysteries should. Could they have left out the “aliens?” Probably. You could have probably left out the sci-fi ending and left it as an isolation thriller. But then you wouldn’t have the Cloverfield association. I think that having that association in the back of my mind added to the mystery of Howard. With it being a Cloverfield movie, it’s entirely plausible that something was happening outside. But was Howard just being an opportunist and using these events to cover his wicked deeds? Was he already in the middle of wicked deeds when shit went down? Is that why Emmett had to fight to be in the bunker, because Howard had already taken Michelle down there and wanted her to himself? We don’t know, and I like that.
John Goodman gave a wonderful, creepy performance. Mary Elizabeth Winstead was good. It would have been easy to have portrayed her as the ddamsel in distress while Emmett as around, but they didn’t. I applaud them for that. Instead, she’s the strong one that has ultimately seen the truth and is fighting for freedom.
So, if you like suspenseful movies, I highly recommend that you view 10 Cloverfield Lane.