10 Cloverfield Lane Reviewed and Cloverfield Mythos Explained
A week after walking out of 10 Cloverfield Lane I’m still grappling with this movie. I am still utterly gobsmacked. But to understand why I was so blown away you have to understand not only 10 Cloverfield Lane, but also the entire Cloverfield mythos and the greater storyline universe that J.J. Abrams created initially with the original Cloverfield movie. Abrams is such a tirelessly inventive world builder, that nothing goes un-thought of. And so when he declares that it would be “fun to create Cloverfield movies in many different varieties and movie types” you have to slow down and listen and consider what exactly is going on right beneath you. But before we go any deeper, please understand that this entire post is a spoiler not only for this movie, it is also a spoiler for Cloverfield, and even more importantly, is a spoiler for the larger Cloverfield universe. If you’d like to do a search on Cloverfield ARG and figure this stuff out on your own (which I highly recommend) I wouldn’t blame you. I’ve enjoyed it. But if you’d like to see the story behind the story of this movie, I’m hear to open your eyes. But please make sure you’ve seen the movie first… at the very least.
So, just as a random example of how deep this rabbit hole goes – did you know that slusho.jp, is actually a fake company website talking all about the Cloverfield monster? Did you know that Slusho’s are made from kaitei no mitsu, or “seabed’s nectar”, and it makes your “stomach explode with happiness”? Did you know that it was probably Noriko Yoshido’s desire to make the best drink ever that possibly awoke the monster from the sea and caused the occurrences of the original Cloverfield to take place? Or what about the Tagruato Corp.? And it’s desire to be explore the deepest recesses of our planet through deep sea drilling? And how they may be a cover organization for another entity intent on searching for ways in which they dominant the globe? Right. There is a metric crap-ton going on inside the Cloverfield universe. Here’s J.J. Abram’s thoughts on the larger universe…
“I would be lying if I didn’t say there was something else that, if we’re lucky enough to do it, could be really cool that connects some stories…There is something else that we’d like to do, and hopefully we’ll get a shot.”
And you just thought you were watching a new movie with John Goodman. Hahaha. No. There’s a lot, a lot more going on here than meets the eye.
10 Cloverfield Lane Reviewed and Explained
So, before we dive into the larger mythos of the Cloverfield universe, why don’t we walk through Cloverfied? We’ll talk through the ins and outs just within this movie. And then after that, we’ll go through how those details interrelate with the larger Cloverfield universe created by J.J. Abrams.
The first movie in the Cloverfield mythos was a found footage Godzilla type flick. And it was awesome. Some gave it a bad wrap for its found footage craziness and it’s intimate portrayal of the chaos as opposed to the show everything perspective of other monster films. 10 Cloverfield Lane takes the intimate portrayal to an entirely whole new level. Instead of a group of six people hunted across New York City desperately running for their lives, we have three people, hiding in a bunker. The sum total of actors in this movie are four. And it was filmed in 36 days. So this is a much much smaller film on it’s face. And yet. There are a lot of things going on here simultaneously. So let’s start off by walking through a basic overview of the movie’s outline.
10 Cloverfield Lane Overview
The movie opens overlooking the sea, and then quickly cuts to a woman driving in her car (Michelle, played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead). She’s apparently breaking up with her fiancé for some reason. We never hear her side of the story, but it’s clear from her boyfriend’s side of the story that he thinks she’s overreacting. She hangs up on him and a little while later Michelle stops to get gas. She’s obviously a little nervous about someone nearby. But continues on her way. There is an enormous flash of light in the sky and then she has a car accident. After a little while, something less than a week, but probably a couple days, Michelle wakes up and realizes she is trapped. She has an IV and that she’s been injured.
Soon Howard (John Goodman) comes in and lets her know that something terrible has happened up above and that he has saved her life. He found her after her accident and brought her here. Later Howard reveals to Michelle that after the attack he was freaking out and that he was doing his best to get back to the fallout shelter he had built. He crashed into her and injured her. He then felt obligated to bring her to the shelter and try his best to restore her. I personally think that Howard saw her at the gas station, he then thought that she reminded him of his daughter Megan (which is a major plot point for the course of the movie) and when the light flashed across the sky he knew he needed to save her. So he rammed her car, and brought her down to the shelter. But that is just my two cents.
Soon after Michelle arrives we meet Emmet. A local boy who apparently helped Howard build the fallout shelter. Apparently, Emmet saw the flash of light and booked it to the shelter as quickly as he could. He then injured his arm breaking into the outer door. Howard allows him to stay, and he is really grateful to Howard for his original paranoia that has kept him alive. But it is Michelle’s early opinion that Howard is lying to them all. That there is nothing going on up above, and that Howard is just a paranoid man with sadistic motives. But eventually she steals the keys to the bunker doors from Howard and makes a run for the “airlock”. Upon arriving there and locking herself in, we meet the fourth and final character in our small play, Leslie. Leslie makes a run for the doors of the bunker and attempts to get in. All the while Howard is yelling at Michelle to not open the door, that she can’t help her. It’s already too late. Meanwhile Leslie is screaming at Michelle to open up, they barely touched her, she was alright, just open up the door. And eventually she starts pounding her face into the glass and the scene ends. There are a number ways that we can read this scene and we will get into each one in detail at the end of the recap.
Once Michelle has experienced the shocking reality of what is going on outside she settles down a bit, and tries to fit in with Emmet and Howard. Obviously smashing Howard with a beer bottle and stealing the keys, making a run for it, and eventually realizing that she was wrong would leave her with a bit of egg on her face, no? I mean, it really is the end of the world afterall.
But then the situation changes again when the air scrubber shuts down and the switch gets jammed. Howard and Emmet are too big to get into the shaft and so Howard asks Michelle to go up into the shaft. “Whatever you do, don’t get stuck, we’re too big to go in after you.” So Michelle heads up and finds a completely separate room space, with pictures of Megan, and an earring of hers there as well. Which seemed weird, because Howard had said that his daughter Megan had been turned against him and taken up to Chicago with her mother. Which meant, that Megan had never been to this fairly newly built shelter. Right? So something wasn’t adding up. And then? She finds “Help” scratched in the window behind the sliding metal door. Which changes everything.
Emmet and Michelle then begin to collaborate on creating a suit to protect themselves from the air outside. But they could only create a single suit from the shower curtain, which means that Emmet and Michelle would have knock Howard out and tie him up while Michelle is outside searching. But then disaster strikes when Howard finds the scissors and demands to know what is going on. Emmet tells Howard that he was trying to get Howard’s gun from him… and totally protects Michelle from Howard. Emmet apologizes and Howard accepts Emmets apology… and then he shoots him. And then Michelle comes completely unglued. It should be noted here that in the original script one of the key details was that the air scrubbers could only handle two people and so part of the reason for Emmet’s death was the oxygen. But that detail has been completely eradicated in this version.
The final showdown comes when Howard notices something isn’t right in Michelle’s room. A chase, a fight, and Howard gets critically burnt with acid. There then ensues a harrowing chase in the air ducts by Howard as he shoves his knife up into the air duct as Michelle tries to wiggle her way to safety. But eventually she gets away, and Howard is trapped in the burning bunker. Michelle makes it outside in the suit and eventually realizes that the suit probably isn’t necessary, because she sees birds flying, and she had just cut the suit but nothing had occurred. (Which, I have to add, totally reminds me of a short film called “Turning Point” with Jade Harlow. You totally have to check it out.) After taking the suit off she finds that she’s not dead from contamination, but fighting for her life from Giant Galactic Space Bugs. One thing to note, that we will definitely get back to later, these alien species are definitely different from the previous Cloverfield bugs. They are more like mollusks with teeth than anything, which means, I don’t know what it means. But it means we’ll have to discuss them, that’s for sure. Eventually Michelle saves herself by basically lofting a Molotov Cocktail at the ship, and it crashing. And then she heads off to join the resistance that has taken back the south eastern seaboard from the aliens. Fade to black.
10 Cloverfield Lane Viral Marketing
The movie is fairly bare bones in what it reveals about the story, and yet, the viral marketing campaign for both Cloverfield and 10 Cloverfield were extremely robust storytelling experiences. These are called ARG’s or Alternative Reality Games. And boy do we have a good one on our hands here.
And we are fortunate that the extra-viral details are so rich because we get a TON of information from this space. Ok. Ready to head down the rabbit trail? Back in the day, two of the main websites were slusho.jp, and tagruato.jp. As of a couple months ago, if you looked back through tagruato.jp you would find that John Goodman’s employee photo showed that he worked for Tagruato, and assisted with their satellites. Right? Next? (You really do need to keep up because this is going to go deep fast.) If you see his t-shirt says “radioman70” – which, if you look up radioman70 on the web you’ll find the website radioman70.com redirects to the site funandprettythings.com. Still with me? And when you do, you’ll see a website that is similar to Pinterest. A pile of random photos. But, if you click the image that is from the movie Pretty In Pink, you will be presented with a login screen. A LOGIN SCREEN. Cracks me up. And if you key in the password, “Do you want to talk?” sans quotes, it will show you a log screen with comments from various users.
And immediately, as you start reading the comments you know where you are. Funandprettythings.com is probably Denise’s site (Howard’s wife), and Howard has hacked into the back end. And he is intent on haranguing her into getting Megan back. But you are better off just checking it all out yourself.
Well, you want to go one better? And remember, no one does viral marketing like J.J. Abrams. So, I have not yet mentioned that there were hidden images inside the initial 10 Cloverfield Lane trailer that was originally included with Deadpool. And the images laid out numbers connected to the images. The numbers, when strung together, formed a GPS location. The GPS location was – 30.675689, -90.125742, which lead someone to a location where they found a bottle, and a mound of dirt. After digging up… here. Why don’t you just watch the youtube video yourself. Fascinating stuff.
Fascinating eh? One of the most interesting finds for me was the note inside from Howard. Obviously the MREs and the survival gear is stuff that is there from Howard. Totally matches the character. But it’s the audio file that is the most interesting…
Oh, and just now as my hand hovered over the publish button for this review/explanation I discovered a text-based game that has Howard testing Megan’s ability to survive bunker life! Hahaha. You can find it here. And I gotta say, it’s pretty sweet. I’ve only just started fiddling with it… but it reminds me of the old school Zork games. Love it.
I could go on, and on, and on about the ARG and the viral marketing links for both Cloverfield, and 10 Cloverfield Lane. J.J. is a demi-god when it comes to viral marketing. But it’s the content that we learn about Howard, the monsters, and the larger world that really matters. It is in the ARG/Viral marketing that we learn so much more about 10 cloverfield… but even so, there isn’t a specific, well defined link that ties everything together in my mind. So I’ve developed a handful of theories to float to you all to consider. The goal here, remember, is to make sense of where 10 Cloverfield is in this larger Cloverfield world. Right? So off we go.
The 10 Cloverfield Lane Theories
Theory #1 – The Literal Theory
Howard is of the mind that the air outside is contaminated. Whether because of radiation or aliens… or scientific experiments gone awry, the air is contaminated and anyone outside will be killed because of the air. So in this theory’s world, Leslie was going to die just because she was standing outside. Nothing else really mattered. The air had already gotten to her. The main problem I see with this theory is that this wasn’t how the world worked in the original Cloverfield movie. People came and went outside without becoming sick. And if we are to assume that this movie fits snuggly within the Cloverfield universe that doesn’t actually follow. We also see Michelle at the end of the movie make it outside and breathe the air without immediate consequences. Doesn’t exactly prove anything conclusively, but it is an interesting datapoint.
Theory #2 – Global Alien Thermonuclear War
It should be said that before J.J. got involved, the script original had as it’s prime mover, Iran getting ahold of a stockpile of nukes that they exploded in all the major cities of the world. This script was abandoned, and the Cloverfield connection was adopted instead. But the original script could carry some weight, but instead of Iran unleashing the nuclear holocaust, this time around it is the Cloverfield connection that unleashes the nuclear Armageddon. If that is the cause to the end of the world, then Leslie has been subjected to nuclear fallout and her death is caused by radiation. I will point out that if nuclear fallout is the cause, then everyone in the shelter is going to die soon as well. Right? It’s not lead lined, not everywhere anyway. And if this is the cause, then there is no way that this little shelter is going to be much good for anything. Not that that matters much as we see going forward.
Theory #3 – Cloverfield Direct Connection
If this movie is a current day manifestation of the original Cloverfield then it would naturally follow that all the rules and backstories are relevant. Back in 2008 an alien monster (a baby actually) was brought from the ocean’s deep and it attacked New York. The monster spread by sending out pod-type aliens that bit people… these people then were hosts (much like the movie Alien, but in a more explosive end) and the pod-like aliens then exploded out of their hosts to procreate some more. If this movie is a direct connection to the original then Leslie could have been bitten by one of these critters and was awaiting the birth of another one. Remember that scene in the original movie? “WE’VE GOT A BITE!!”? That is what is happening here. Leslie is about to explode. And if we remember, we saw Leslie afterwards, when Michelle escaped the bunker. She was basically a skinless heap.
The biggest problem with this theory is that these aliens are completely different. Do they gestate similarly? Do they spread similarly? Do they attack humans for the same reasons? Why are they so different? Maybe in the intervening eight years they’ve metamorphosed? Or they changed up in order to help be more effective hunters and killers and allowed them to take over the planet? I don’t know, but to buy in on this theory you are going to have to come up with a pretty good reason for the difference.
Theory #4 – Time Lapse Discontinuity
I have noticed a few theories online about a possibility I did not think of myself while watching the film… and that was that the single thread that units the Cloverfield universe is time travel and parallel universes. This theory postulates that there were inconsistencies between the clocks that proved there were jumps throughout the movie as the timeline proceeded. As I said, I didn’t see anything obvious about the jumping of the clocks, and even the examples given by this theory didn’t even seem to be dramatic enough to support itself.
But, one if time travel did happen, and different parallel worlds existed it could help explain a few inconsistencies between the two different movies. The different aliens. The fact that these characters seem not to reference the original attacks. Etc. And obviously, J.J. is not unfamiliar with the ideas around time travel, but in my opinion, it doesn’t seem that the Cloverfield universe has enough evidence to support time travel. And yet, I can’t seem to grasp why these two movies don’t have a few of the obvious links that should be there. So, like shards of similar timelines, it could very well be that Cloverfield, & 10 Cloverfield are similar, but different timelines or occurrences of the same event, but in different timelines? So, maybe Abrams wants to create different views of the same occurrences in various times?
Personally I thought 10 Cloverfield Lane was a fun closed box movie. By naming the movie 10 Cloverfield Lane the movie has stomped in a certain direction that normally is left more ambiguous until later in the movie. Originally the script was entitled The Cellar, which makes more sense from a movie standpoint. Are there monsters? Radiation? Or is Howard just insane? That is left ambiguous with a title like The Cellar. But with 10 Cloverfield, the title assumes Howard isn’t insane. And yet, everything within the ARG and the movie makes it clear that no, actually, regardless of the Cloverfield world… Howard is still very insane. Right? So instead of making it unclear and then confirming it, the movie says he isn’t, uhm, no actually he is. Right? So it’s a double back. Which is clever. But has drawn scorn from people who don’t see the double back as clever.
Regardless of whether this movie was inside the Cloverfield universe I would have enjoyed it. There are too few movies that stay small scale and play the character angle. But this movie does this in spades. The characters are interesting. The questions are interesting. But dropping in the Cloverfield world adds so much detail and so much backstory that the characters and writers are able to draw on. Right? I enjoyed both. And personally? I can’t stop digging on the ARG world and the Reddit communties discussing voicemails on Megan’s phone, evaluating the messages on prettyfunthings, the dug up USB files, etc. There are constantly new things popping up that are giving us more information and details about Howard, Megan, and the world that we find ourselves in within this movie. Definitely have had a ton of fun with this movie.
But you? What are your thoughts about it? Waste of time? Total divergence? What theory do you prefer? Or do you have your own? Personally am looking forward to the next movie and the next datapoint about all these blood relatives of the Cloverfield universe. Anyway, I would love to hear your thoughts.