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Why 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE's Title Is A Spoiler Of The Worst Kind

What's in a name? In the case of 10 Cloverfield Lane, an awful lot.

Words by Eric Hillis (@hilliseric)


If you plan to watch 10 Cloverfield Lane, turn back now. If you have no interest in watching the movie, our spoiler free review may change your mind (you really should see it). If you've already seen it, read away...


Back on January 15th, a mysterious trailer hit the internet. It seemed to be a promo for a claustrophobic thriller starring John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and John Gallagher Jr, but it bore the name '10 Cloverfield Lane'. How had JJ Abrams and his Bad Robot production company managed to keep a Cloverfield sequel under wraps?

Well we now know the answer - 10 Cloverfield Lane isn't a sequel to the 2008 found footage monster movie, nor does it take place in the same cinematic universe. The movie was titled 'The Cellar' in its original script form, with the Cloverfield tag added later for marketing purposes. Let's face it, Goodman, Winstead and Gallagher may be fine performers (and they're at their very best here) but they're not exactly big box office draws. It's likely 'The Cellar' would have gone straight to VOD, whereas 10 Cloverfield Lane is undoubtedly set to make a healthy return on its $5 million budget. It says a lot about contemporary Hollywood that a sophisticated adult genre thriller can't be allowed into the world on its own merits and has to be tied into a more fanboy friendly franchise.

We asked our twitter followers if they would be more or less inclined in seeing the film if it still bore its original title, and almost two fifths confessed to only being interested because of the 'Cloverfield' (non) connection. Only 10% said they would be more likely to watch 'The Cellar' over '10 Cloverfield Lane'.


With those stats, it's difficult to blame Bad Robot for exploiting a pre-existing property with a recognisable name. On the other hand, we've seen similar tactics applied in the past (remember American Psycho 2 anyone? Anyone?) with far from successful results.

But while a lot more people will now see 'The Cellar', they won't enjoy it as much as had they stumbled across it blindly while browsing Netflix. Once you sit down to watch 10 Cloverfield Lane, that word 'Cloverfield' instantly begins to play on your mind. Rather than settling back and allowing Trachtenberg and his writers to take you on a journey, you spend a lot of time second guessing the film, looking out for clues and connections that simply aren't there. (The presence of a contemporary iPhone suggests it doesn't take place at the same time as 2008's Cloverfield, when flip-phones were still common, but I wasn't sure whether to accept this as a trustworthy clue or not). Thanks to its title, the viewer is primed to expect a degree of science fiction from the movie, so that final twist when Winstead escapes the bunker and finds herself battling aliens has practically no surprise factor. Think of how much more impactful that reveal would have been if the movie were called 'The Cellar'. Every other critic, blogger and podcaster would be alerting their audiences to the existence of a great little genre thriller that sneaked under the radar, and those who track down the movie would enjoy a far more immersive experience.

The more troubling issue is that a con trick has essentially been pulled on audiences. When first released, the trailer was commended for its ambiguity in an age of spoiler heavy promos. We now know that the trailer is no more or less spoiler filled than most others; it actually tells us quite a bit about the film. What it doesn't tell us is how it connects to Cloverfield, because of course that's a non-issue that's been conjured up to dupe fans of an eight-year-old movie into seeing one that bears no thematic or stylistic relation.

As a fan of 10 Cloverfield Lane, I'm happy that the film will be seen by a larger audience and hopefully launch debut director Dan Trachtenberg into a successful Hollywood career. Maybe indie filmmakers could take a leaf from the Bad Robot book and infiltrate the mainstream; I look forward to Xavier Dolan's '13 Avatar Street'.


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