How The 'Cloverfield Lane' Monster Takes Away From An Otherwise Fantastic Movie
Like pretty much everyone else on the planet, I was very, very excited when I heard that J.J. Abrams and his filmmaking team had made a second Cloverfield film. Although I saw the first movie later than most other people (blame the shaky cams), I loved every moment of it, and the more I knew about 10 Cloverfield Lane, the higher my expectations got. A great cast, a mysterious plot, a trailer as creepy as anything Abrams did on Lost — was there a single thing not to love? Well, after seeing the movie this month, I can say that the answer is, sadly, yes — the totally unnecessary, borderline ridiculous Cloverfield Lane monsters.
Before you superfans start attacking me, know one thing: I loved the movie. 10 Cloverfield Lane is crazy smart and hugely suspenseful, full of superb acting, sharp writing, and genuinely scary twists and turns. I could go on and on talking about how good this movie is, and why more thrillers should be like it, but plenty of people have already done just that. But what hasn't been talked about much, perhaps out of fear of spoiling the film for those who haven't yet seen it, is its ending — in particular, the (yes, spoiler alert) enormous, scary monsters that attack Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) as she finally escapes from the bunker and goes outside.
It's not that the monsters aren't well-made, because they are. The Cloverfield Lane creatures are as terrifying as any you'd want from a good horror movie, and certain scenes with them, like the one in which they attack the car that Michelle is hiding in, are genuinely frightening. But the problem is that they're simply not necessary. Up until its conclusion, Cloverfield Lane is a suspense thriller, not a horror movie. It's about the terror that comes from being trapped in a small, isolated place with a dangerous person, not from actual monsters blowing up buildings and causing an apocalypse. It's about real, human fear — not that created by unfamiliar creatures, and definitely not by literal aliens.
And when 3/4 of a movie is of one genre, a serious change in tone is slightly distracting at best, totally disorienting at worst. Unfortunately, in the case of Cloverfield Lane, it's the latter. The movie's monster-filled conclusion feels like a totally separate film, one that Abrams and co. added in at the last minute to make it a "Cloverfield" movie rather than an unrelated thriller — because that's basically what happened. As Abrams himself has said to many outlets, the film was originally just a suspense movie called The Cellar about a woman trapped in a bunker, unsure if the outside world is really destroyed like her captor has told her. The end, according to HitFlix, showed the woman, having escaped, seeing a demolished city, yet while it's clear that something catastrophic has certainly happened, monsters are never said, or assumed, to be the cause. But when Abrams' company Bad Robot bought the script, the they changed the ending in order for the film to be part of what's now called the Cloververse, adding in monsters similar to those seen in the first movie.
I understand why the change was made; 2008's Cloverfield was such an exciting and successful movie that I can hardly blame the filmmakers for wanting to turn it into a franchise. But in doing so, they took the original, compelling story featured in The Cellar and weakened it, adding on an ending that's tonally dissonant from the rest of the movie and completely unnecessary just to make it "fit" with the first film. Cloverfield Lane doesn't need a crazy, monster-filled conclusion to make it a great movie; the realistic suspense and believable thrills present in most of the film are more than enough to provide massive entertainment. The ending makes it a worse film, cramming it into a franchise where it doesn't belong.
I know not everyone feels this away after seeing the movie; there are plenty of people who think Cloverfield Lane is a pitch-perfect follow-up to the first movie, with nothing in it that feels disruptive or silly. Yet I can't help but believe that the film would've been far better off if it had stayed a realistic thriller about human danger, rather than become a CGI-filled horror movie about monsters and aliens.
Images: Paramount Pictures; Giphy