I love a good surprise movie. The Super Bowl was over by the time I saw the announcement for the new Cloverfield movie, so I finished what I was working on and hopped over to Netflix.
Now, I never watched the first movie. I wanted to, but knew I wouldn’t be able to handle the shaky-cam production. However, I saw 10 Cloverfield Lane at the theater and loved it. I’m a huge fan of horror movies — especially ones that build really well, and ones that tease you about just how threatening the thing you think might be threatening really is.
You’re supposed to spend all of that movie wondering what the real threat is. Is it John Goodman’s character or is he really a nice guy protecting our heroine from what’s happening outside? Sure, it’s not ideal, the situation, but how much can you trust about what’s happening inside that bunker? I’m a sucker for that ambiguous villain.
The Cloverfield Paradox feeds on another one of my favorite horror genres: the isolationist space thriller. Again, this is all about feeding on our own expectations and perceptions. What’s more scary: the thing happening on the space station, or the fact that nothing is happening and you’re still cut off from all the things you know and love. Can you trust the people you’re with? Can you trust yourself? In a movie like Alien, there’s a specific threat: the killer alien. But what’s more, we learn that you can’t always trust the people you’re with either… people will do a lot for money, for power, for fame and that’s not too mention that you never know what people will do when put under that kind of pressure.
Brief spoilers for 10 Cloverfield Lane ahead.
So, we’re supposed to spend the majority of the movie rooting for the heroine, Michelle. She’s saved from a wreck and nursed back to health by a stranger, but finds herself stuck inside his underground bunker. He seems strange and we’re supposed to see him as this mostly harmless but slightly unhinged guy, who maybe suffers from some mental illness. He’s particular, he gets angry and most importantly, he refuses to let her leave. He’s adamant that there’s something outside, that something dangerous has happened, that the bunker is the safest place for them all.
For a while, she gives in to this supposed fantasy. After all, other guy in the bunker is a neighbor who seems pretty normal and he came into the bunker willingly. But over time, this stranger gets stranger. He’s forcing Michelle to play this familial role. We find out near the end that this guy isn’t just strange, that her initial instincts were correct… he is dangerous. Michelle fights her way out of the bunker. And then there’s the twist. He might’ve been a monster, but the stranger wasn’t wrong either. Something is very, very bad outside.
And that’s where we come to The Cloverfield Paradox.
This movie doesn’t play off the second movie any more than the second did off the first. We know there’s an indefinite something happening. It’s not explained or defined… but it also doesn’t need to be. So whatever is happening means our protagonist, Ava Hamilton is going with a team to the space station. There, the international crew spends two years firing up a particle accelerator trying to figure out a way to generate enough power that the Earth can rebuild resources. Which we can learn from the power of elimination… are dwindling.
The majority of the movie is about the isolation of space, who and how does the crew trust. If they’re alone, how do they survive. And when the unexpected and unexplained happens, can they keep their shit together long enough to figure out how to get home again.
I have to say this reversal on an apocalyptic tale is a lot of fun. This is the opposite of something like San Andreas, for example. The disaster thriller genre shows us heroes at the center of the disaster, where the disaster is the main character. The Cloverfield movies, by comparison, mention the disaster as little as possible.
I don’t want to spoil it for you. But if you’re a fan of space horror, or just horror in general, check it out. I really, really liked it.
Also, holy fucking shout out to this whole cast and crew for keeping this movie on the DL for however long they had to keep that under their hats. And, to whatever casting director delivered this amazing leading cast of POCs. It was awesome.