The best way to see 10 Cloverfield Lane is to know as little as possible – but, then again, what a weird thing for me to tell you. You have to pay to see this movie and I saw it for free. Actually, it’s my job to see this movie, so I was paid for my time. In other words: I didn’t invest any disposable income or precious free time to see 10 Cloverfield Lane. If I were you, I’d want to know something about it other than a stranger on the Internet saying, “Hey, trust me, spend your money on this.”
(What other product would ever come with that recommendation? “Hey, the less you know about this humidifier before you buy it, the better.” Or, “I could give you more details about this Buick Skylark, but it’s better if you just experience them yourself after you buy it. Trust me.”)
It’s kind of remarkable that two months ago, no one even knew this movie existed. Then a “leaked” trailer hit the Internet and everyone suddenly became abuzz with Cloverfield fever. I’ve been thinking about why. It’s not like the first movie left us with some crazy mythos that the world has been dissecting since 2008. No, it was just a pretty good monster movie filmed with the shakiest of shaky cams.
I don’t think it has much to do with the 2008 movie itself, but more the title. The word “Cloverfield”automatically invokes a sense of mystery, which has much more to do with the seven months of speculation between July of 2007 and January of 2008. This was speculation that varied from the film’s title (which wasn’t confirmed until November) to a plot that could have been about anything from Godzilla (which, sure) to Voltron (which is pretty funny when you think about that versus what the film turned out to be).
But what those six months did was condition our brains to go into a saliva inducing “mystery” coma every time we hear “Cloverfield.” Mysteries are fun! Well, sort of. But Cloverfield was one of the first “online mysteries” surrounding a movie that worked – and it most likely worked because they did nothing. Remember that “Evan Chan was murdered” game surrounding Spielberg’s A.I. that had nothing to do with the movie? That’s the kind of stuff that doesn’t work. Cloverfield won the “mystery” game by not even releasing the word “Cloverfield.” Even today, that word doesn’t really even mean anything. It’s not like the monster’s proper name was “Clint Cloverfield.” It’s just a word. But it’s now an exciting word because we have no idea what to expect.
This is why it’s a) so smart of J.J. Abrams to turn Cloverfield into basically an episodic movie series with unrelated stories and b) it’s kind of surprising it took this long to happen. As director Dan Trachtenberg told us, it’s basically a Twilight Zone for 2016. I’m sure in the near future we will get Dial C for Cloverfield or Eddie and the Cloverfields, or whatever, and this will become something a little more ingrained as a ongoing serial. But, for now, its still, “What the hell is this?”
In 10 Cloverfield Lane, we meet Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), who is in the process of leaving her boyfriend (voiced by Bradley Cooper). Driving down a Louisiana highway, she’s involved in a terrible car accident. She awakens in the basement of a bomb shelter owned by Howard (John Goodman), a kooky loon rambling on about the end of the world. Also living in this shelter is a seemingly nice enough good ‘ol boy named Emmet (John Gallagher, Jr.), who seems to actively believe everything Howard is saying. We, the audience, don’t know anything more than Michelle knows. And, like, her, we have to decipher all this nonsense we are hearing and decide for ourselves what’s true and what’s not. It’s all very exhilarating and, at times, it’s one of the scariest movies I’ve seen in a long time. (And the third act is bonkers.)
And we should stop there because, even more than most movies, 10 Cloverfield Lane can truly be spoiled by spoilers. It’s just a “fun thing.” And hopefully you will listen to this Internet stranger friend and believe me with the small amount of information I’m giving to you. (I also have a used humidifier I’d like to sell, if interested.)
Mike Ryan lives in New York City and has written for The Huffington Post, Wired, Vanity Fair and New York magazine. He is senior entertainment writer at Uproxx. You can contact him directly on Twitter.