The '10 Cloverfield Lane' Theories Keeping Redditors Up at Night
This post contains spoilers for 10 Cloverfield Lane, a movie we absolutely loved.
This weekend, 10 Cloverfield Lane's mysterious mania lured (and scared) unsuspecting audiences to a formidable $25 million at the box office. The movie is as tight as Hollywood thrillers come. Under the direction of first-timer Dan Trachtenberg, the claustrophobic sci-fi film locks Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) in an underground bunker with Howard (John Goodman), a paranoid physicist who -- he swears! -- wants to make nice while the apocalypse passes, and Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.), a southern townie who feels lucky to be there. Their world implodes when Howard's dirty secrets bubble to the top... of his barrel off acid. There are murdered girls, secret daughters, bold lies, and alien parole ships. 10 Cloverfield Lane goes in every direction -- and sticks the landing.
Like the original 2009 Cloverfield, early ticket-buyers flocked to the Internet to make sense of it all. And because we're responsible, we made sense of those pervading theories. Let's talk about the end of 10 Cloverfield Lane:
"Howard had stated that 'they will attack all major population centers first, then send out ground troops to kill the survivors... Like us". The initial attack(s) that caused Howard to retreat to his bunker was [the Cloverfield monster]." --ImJonJordan
You know it. The Internet knows it. J.J. Abrams knows it. The 10 Cloverfield Lane title is loaded. Internet sleuths who spent months cracking the original's Augmented Reality Game, devising answers to the monster movie's whos, whats, wheres, whens, whys, and hows, would inevitably apply the same game logic to the new movie. Hints in the movie and the sequel's ARG invite curiosity, with passing references to Howard's job at Bold Futura, a space division of Tagruato, a mining company that may or may not have awoken the first Cloverfield monster. Intricate!
Abrams refers to 10 Cloverfield Lane as a blood relative of Cloverfield. Direct connections are limited to Easter eggs and the ARG. Think of it like a mirror universe. Or don't -- if anyone's inching close to a unifying Cloverfield theory, it's the guy above, who wonders if Howard, Michelle, and Emmett lived through the events of Cloverfield in the bunker. What if the attack on New York was just the beginning? What if Cloverfield monsters attacked all the major cities, and the "attack on the Southern seaboard" mentioned on the radio while Michelle's speeding down the highway is a similar event, the precursor to a full alien invasion? Sure, why not. Maybe the space-worm-ish creature that attacks Michelle in the grand finale is the fully evolved version of those subway-dwelling barnacles. Anything goes in the back alleys of Reddit -- a Twilight Zone for the Internet era.
"Everything Howard says that she thinks is crazy eventually turns out to be the truth. [Because] Howard isn't the bad guy. Emmet is the bad guy." --Juke777
Hit the brakes. There's a ton of post-viewing forum chatter that recasts Emmett as 10 Cloverfield Lane's unspoken villain and vindicates Howard, an unhinged, abusive kidnapper, on the basis of being "correct." This is a theory that misses the mark and the point. 10 Cloverfield Lane ran with a terrifying tagline: "Monsters come in many forms." As the story unraveled, Michelle feared Howard (who chained her up in his underground bunker), softened to him, then swung back to fear as it became clear this father figure was a murderous creep. Emmett was a victim, too. Many wonder if the trio's simpleton killed Brittany, a girl who went missing years ago (and is clearly Howard's former captor). Emmett's arm is in a sling -- did Howard break it to ensure there wouldn't be any more issues? There's a stain on the ceiling of Michelle's room -- did Howard hide the body to keep the peace? So many questions, so few answers. Cloverfield obsessives need to take it all at face value. Emmett ran into the bunker to escape the apocalypse. Howard didn't want him there, and broke his arm. When it became clear there was a killer in their midst, Emmett took a bullet to save Michelle's story. Howard is a monster so bad, it was worth running into an alien-infested corn field to escape him. End of story.
"Could the acid inside of [Howard's] barrel and the gas used by the aliens be the same?" --toonytoon180
Clearly, not everyone has binged-watched Breaking Bad. Back in the day, Jesse and Walter disposed of the dead using vats of hydrofluoric acid. 10 Cloverfield Lane's antagonist obtained barrels of chemical bath from his day job "launching satellites," leading Reddit's science community to pin it as perchloric acid or ammonium perchlorate. The timeline is also a (morbid) factor. In-movie clues insinuate that Howard killed Brittany with the corrosive liquid. If the longtime creep was in cahoots with the aliens, he would have obtained the material ages ago.
This theory is a total reach... though the parallel isn't. Howard destroys lives just like the alien invaders. There's nothing "extra" about his terrestrial acid, but he's still a monster. Let's really drive this home for our friends who think he's an OK guy for being right about the whole "don't go outside" thing.
"I was hoping the figure outside was confirmed, however, to potentially make the red flash actually from the experiment in God Particle and not even caused by the aliens." --cysubtor
Savvy viewers are already pinning 10 Cloverfield Lane theories to Abrams and Bad Robot's next movie, God Particle, wherein "a team of astronauts on a space station make a terrifying discovery that challenges all they know about the fabric of reality, as they desperately fight for their survival." That sci-fi feature's due in February 2017, and many wonder if a shadowy figure seen in Michelle's first glimpse of the outside world, and a red light described by Emmett, are entangled in what could be a cross-dimensional Cloverfield threequel. If 10 Cloverfield Lane does huge box-office business, expect Abrams to give God Particle a name change. You know, the Higgs boson is the quantum excitation of the Higgs field. See what I'm saying?
"This movie was to War of the Worlds as the original Cloverfield was to Godzilla." --Radaniel9
Not so much a theory as an astute observation that anyone familiar with H.G. Wells's novel likely picked up, too. The opening broadcast could be an allusion Orson Welles's 1940 radio dramatization; Tthe inciting "flash" sounds like the Martians' laser blasts and their deadly red weed. The female outsider's atomic burns align with Wells's own descriptions. Michelle's Molotov cocktail riffs on Steven Spielberg's 2005 adaptation of War of the Worlds, which also imagines the Martians as hybrids of mechanical and organic material. And Howard's own dementia recalls the book's narrator, who eludes aliens but suffers from a nervous breakdown.
Possible monster in final scene? --NotMySeventhAcct
Many suggest there's a Cloverfield monster proper in the clouds behind the final spaceship. Get ready to spend hours going frame by frame through this damn movie.
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Matt Patches is Thrillist’s Entertainment Editor. He previously wrote for Grantland, Esquire.com, Vulture, The Hollywood Reporter, and The Guardian. He hid in Brooklyn during the Cloverfield attack. Find him on Twitter @misterpatches.