This month marks the ten year anniversary of the original Cloverfield (January 18 2008). With both it and 10 Cloverfield Lane being re released on 4k Ultra HD Blu Ray, and the third Cloverfield project coming this year, I’m here to reflect on my experiences with the Cosmic/Sci Fi Horror franchise.
Before ever seeing Cloverfield, the movie had a profound impact on my imagination. I was only 12 years old when the movie was released (sorry if that makes readers feel old), so my awareness of the found footage genre was minimal. I had no knowledge of the Blair Witch Project. The first trailer for Cloverfield confused me. Why am I watching someone’s home video? Did I put in the wrong DVD? But then once the trailer kicked into gear with the implications of a giant monster attack I was hooked. As a kid who ran around with a DV camera making movies with friends and family over weekends and summer vacation, the idea of a whole fictional story being told through that same kind of camera stuck with me.
Unfortunately I only had that trailer to fuel my imagination until two years ago when I finally watched the movie. I was not disappointed. For the movie to have come out eight years prior to my watching it, I was happy to see that it still held up against other popular found footage films.
Unlike The Blair Witch Project, Cloverfield doesn’t depend on all the viral marketing to still be considered a good movie from the beginning to end of the “tape”. The story is right there for you to ingest. And unlike the relatively recent Chronicle where characters record the events of the film solely so the filmmakers can still call it found footage, Cloverfield writes in more believable reasons for the film to be recorded that is rooted in character as apposed to convenience.
The character of Hud played by T.J. Miller is our entry character to the story. The movie gives the viewers clear and logical reasons as to why Hud is recording the events of the film. His character is tasked with “documenting” his friend’s going away party. As he gets more and more drunk throughout the party he gets more and more preoccupied with his task. Once the danger of the imminent monster attack starts, he’s constantly told to drop the camera but he’s too drunk and feels the need to keep “documenting”. As the movie progresses and Hud gets more sober and the danger gets more real, his need to document the events stays, to ensure the story of the disaster is told.
Where Cloverfield allowed the format a movie to be integral to the story telling, 10 Cloverfield Lane builds a franchise that tells its own story movie to movie unlike other modern film franchises. 10 Cloverfield Lane introduces audiences to an anthology universe of potentially interconnected stories. It is now a cosmic/sci-fi horror series where its “sequels” stand on their own as well as ask audiences to question whether or not these stories actually exist together.
10 Cloverfield Lane finds Michelle, played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead, locked in a bunker by John Goodman’s character Howard. The whole movie hinges on the non reliable story Howard tells Michelle about the apocalypse he’s saving her from and how it is possible he may actually be a kidnapper with ulterior motives. With the knowledge the audiences has of the first Cloverfield, we are lead to consider that Howard is telling the truth and the apocalypse that Howard claims to be saving Michelle from is the same events documented by Hud in the first movie.
I hope we never get confirmation on how the Cloverfield movies are actually connected. The idea of cosmic horror is that there is this larger than life force of terror that humanity goes crazy trying to comprehend. The more answers we get the less scary that incomprehensible evil becomes (something the Alien franchise has failed to understand).
With Cloverfield 3 on the way and the rise in popularity of anthology based cosmic/sci-fi horror series like Black Mirror, Electric Dreams, Castle Rock, and the upcoming Twilight Zone reboot from Jordan Peele, I’m really excited to see where this genre goes. Cosmic Horror is an old subgenre of Horror that doesn’t seem to get as much love in the horror community and I am so happy it is getting more love.