I think it is important to say right off the bat that this is not a sequel to Cloverfield or a follow up film, it is best thought of as a blood relative. It is set in the same world but that is all we know, we don’t know if it happens simultaneously, before or after though it is quite likely that it happens at the same time or slightly after.
This is one of its many advantages, it weaves an intricate tapestry from seemingly unrelated or incidental threads. When you try to see how they measure with the original or how they fit in with it, you end up with a confusing picture of what is really going on. I don’t want to fully explain why this is as it would need spoilers to do so and one spoiler can ruin this film; so I will just focus on how it felt and what is in the trailer or what won’t ruin the film.
So from the trailer what do we know? That Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) has been taken into Howard’s (John Goodman (or should it be Badman)) bunker without her knowing as when she wakes up in it she is handcuffed to the wall. So straight away there is tension, there are hidden motives, there is paranoia about why he brought her. Is he delusional, is he trying to save her or does he just not want to spend eternity alone? Though what would you do, knowing you could be locked in a bunker for years to come, would you want to be alone?
Well, as in the trailer when asked what he will do to her, he says “I’m going to keep you alive” yet that sounds so menacing and almost like a death sentence. So if you are in her position, in a bunker, awaken to find yourself handcuffed and locked in a cell; do you believe what he tells you? Do you trust him or do you try and escape even knowing what is outside the safety of that concrete tomb?
This is a film made from paranoia, where every little detail changes the way you think of the characters. As from Howard’s point of view he has saved her and she should be grateful and yet she tries to escape which could endanger him. So is he being selfish in keeping her trapped down in the bunker or is he trying to save her from what lies above?
Just what does lie above is done very interestingly in this film, while Howard tells Michelle that there has been an attack there is only speculation on what kind. As spectators of the original we assume it is the same attack or a different one by the same monsters at the same time. Which plays interestingly with the end of Cloverfield as we never found out if the monster was defeated, as Howard speculates if the attack could be nuclear or chemical making the air toxic. Which leads us to think that we had to possibly drop nukes to stop the creature but by doing so caused more and wider damage. For me this was one of the strongest aspects of the film as it made me begin to doubt whether this was an alien attack but perhaps the Soviets ending the alien incursion by nuking America.
Many an interesting internet theory has evolved around this as Cloverfield starts with a CIA title screen, which means that is being watched in retrospect as the CIA found and catalogued the footage. So is this a second wave of attack? As you can tell time has passed simply by looking at the phones as Cloverfield has old fashioned flip phones but, here a brand new Iphone 6 is what Michelle is using. Which does lend credence to the theory that this is a second wave attack and knowing JJ and the secrecy and the subtle workings of Cloverfield, this could be an intentional detail to add more mystery to the film.
Though some of you may be thinking why I am yet to mention Emmett (John Gallagher Jr) who is the third character in the film. That is because he is like the final piece of a jigsaw, he helps it all fall into place and you can see the finished picture for what it is.
He helps to make us/ Michelle believe Howard by telling her what he saw of the attack and that Howard has saved the both of them by letting them into his bunker. So you would think that he and Howard get along but this is not necessarily the case as there is a great amount of tension between him and Howard which Michelle prays on. As she also makes him think about escaping which in turn makes us doubt more about the attack, as if it is really as bad as said why would he also want to escape?
Look at this image from the trailer, who is Howard angry with, Emmett not Michelle. And just look at him, he certainly does look unstable, we see him in the trailer going from playing board games with them to then wrestling with anger and exploding at the dinner table. Which creates some of the best onscreen fear I have seen, what is the bigger threat staying in a contained and sealed underground bunker or leaving to go up into a work possibly in conflict with aliens?
The filming of this bunker adds extraordinarily to this effect, as it takes place in all of 4 rooms giving a sense of claustrophobia to the entire film. Cloverfield made the entire city of New York seem dangerous and there was no way to escape it, here every room is dangerous and there is no guarantee that outside is any safer.
So should you see this film, yes!
Do you have to have seen Cloverfield, no but it helps.
Will it make you shudder in your seat, yes!
Can you guess how it ends, no!
A big thanks to Duncan Cushenan for authoring this review.
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