I make no bones about the fact that Cloverfield is one of my all-time favourite movies. I love science-fiction. I love monster movies. I love ‘found-footage’ films. Cloverfield combines all three of these concepts in one blockbuster format.
The movie had an incredible top-secret production and hardly anything was known about it right up until release. When it hit cinemas in 2008, it made over $170 million and a sequel is said to be in the works.
There are many websites devoted to the secrets of Cloverfield and you might wonder what is meant by that. Well, hidden within the film are nods to other films, the producers’ past (and future) projects and clues (or perhaps red-herrings!) for eagle-eyed viewers. For instance, the logo of the Dharma Initiative from the TV series, Lost, is seen in the opening sequence. Also, in the recent Star Trek movie, a building with the logo and name of Tagruato can be seen, as well as several references to Slusho! The drink has also appeared in the TV series, Fringe.
Months before the movie was released numerous promotional websites appeared and words like Slusho!, Tagruato, Seabed’s Nectar, TIDO Wave, ChimpanzIII, Bold Futura and jamieandteddy.com began being bandied about. What was going on?
Of course, it was a clever, viral marketing campaign. The producers of Cloverfield have created a rich back story for the events in the film, pointing at possible clues as to the origin of the monster. There was even a cryptic short comic released in Japan about events leading up to the movie.
A great deal of this back story is revealed in the Special Investigation Mode on the Blu-ray and DVD releases of the movie. A complete list of this information can be found at http://sites.google.com/site/midgarddragon/home.
So what is the origin of the beast, dubbed ‘Clover’? Well, that’s difficult to ascertain. The back story and events in the movie hint at several possibilities, so let’s have a quick look at what happens before and during the film.
Tagruato is a large, Japanese company, specialising in deep-sea drilling. They have numerous rigs dotted around the world and fleets of tankers and research vessels. They have several subsidiary companies: Bold Futura, a technology company, Yoshida Medical Research, ParaFUN! Wax Distributors and Slusho!, a soft drink manufacturer.
While these companies may seem disparate, they are all a part of Tagruato’s deep-sea explorations, even Slusho! The company has been the target of environmentalist organisations, who claim Tagruato is releasing toxic chemicals into the ocean. One of these groups, TIDO Wave took a militant stance and boarded one of Tagruato’s rigs over the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, the Chuai Drilling Station. This station was mysteriously destroyed during TIDO Wave’s incursion and the group was, at first, blamed for the incident.
Recovered footage from the platform showed it being pulled beneath the waves and then huge sections were blasted into the air.
Rob Hawkins was employed by Slusho! and was due to move to Japan to take up a high-level position within the company. Slusho! marketed an iced beverage that was very popular and bore the slogan, ‘You Can’t Drink Just Six’. Slusho! contains a ‘secret ingredient’ called ‘Seabed’s Nectar’, which may have narcotic, addictive effects.
Several weeks before the Cloverfield Incident, a Bold Futura satellite, ChimpanzIII, crashed into the Atlantic Ocean. This event may have been accidentally caught on camera by Rob Hawkins during a visit to Coney Island with his girlfriend, Elizabeth McIntyre. Efforts to recover the satellite were thwarted by the Chuai and Cloverfield Incidents.
During one of the Coney Island clips, we see flash frame of The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms.
Jamie Lascano was the girlfriend of Theodore Hanssen. She sent video messages to ‘Teddy’ (password: jllovesth), while he was away ‘saving the world’. It became apparent that Teddy was a member of TIDO Wave and may have died during the Chuai Incident (there is even a blog set up by Teddy’s sister, who vows to find her brother!), although he may have been spotted during the Cloverfield Incident in New York. Teddy sent Jamie a sample of something that he warned her against eating. This may have been Seabed’s Nectar in its unprocessed form. She ingested some and said it made her feel great.
The CEO of Tagruato, Ganu Yoshida, was in New York when ‘Clover’ (later termed the Large Scale Aggressor [LSA] by the authorities) attacked. He was evacuated quickly and his whereabouts are unknown. Earlier he had been attacked by environmental protestors and sprayed with an unidentified liquid. It was Ganu’s father who is said to have discovered Seabed’s Nectar. It is theorised that Ganu may have some connection with the LSA and might be the main character in the Cloverfield comic.
When the LSA first struck Manhattan, there was a seven-second power outage. News media claims this was caused by an earthquake and also a tanker had capsized near the Statue of Liberty. This turns out to be a Tagruato ship. The LSA tears off the head of the Statue, possibly attempting to eat it, before throwing or spitting it out with such force, it crashes down a great distance away.
As the LSA tears through Manhattan, the army is on the scene quickly and our group of Rob Hawkins, Lily Ford, Marlena Diamond and Hudson Platt (who is capturing events on Rob’s video camera) attempt to reach Beth McIntyre, who is trapped in her apartment.
In subway tunnels, they encounter smaller creatures, dubbed Human Scale Parasites (HSPs). These are seen falling off the LSA and attacking people. Later analysis finds that the HSPs blood is rich in Seabed’s Nectar. It is thought that the LSA finds the parasites intensely irritating, tries to scratch them off and this accounts for its aggressive nature (not to mention the pounding it’s taking from the armed forces!).
The bite of the HSP appears to be venomous, infecting the victim with a substance that eventually causes explosive haemorrhaging. This might be connected to Seabed’s Nectar. Cleaning bite wounds with water may actually accelerate the infection, as seen when Marlena Diamond comes to her gruesome end.
The army informs our group that it is likely that Manhattan is lost and that the entire island is to be razed to the ground in a protocol called Hammerdown. They have to get out of the city by 6am.
Beth is found just as fighter jets begin pounding the LSA with missiles. Reaching the evacuation point, Lily is bundled into a chopper, while Rob, Beth and Hud must wait for the next one. Because of this, it is likely that Lily is the only one of the main characters to survive.
As they lift off, Hud records a B-2 bomber releasing its payload onto the LSA. It appears to be down, but then appears out of the dust and strikes the helicopter. It crashes in Central Park and we see a flash frame from the original King Kong!
The LSA appears and kills Hud, seemingly biting him in two. Rob grabs the camera and he and Beth hide beneath a bridge as Hammerdown goes into effect. They are presumed killed in the strike.
Is the creature dead? After the end credits, a very quiet whisper (in reverse) says, “It’s still alive.”
The producer, JJ Abrams, gave an interview, in which he stated that the LSA was dead, so what this last message means is unknown. Or maybe Abrams was fibbing!
There’s a ton of stuff out there about Cloverfield, with websites and message boards discussing what happened in the film and the back story. I’m absolutely certain that I have only scratched the surface with this short article and that there will be a lot of hidden messages in the film I didn't notice, such as whatever the chap speaking the foreign language to Hud in the alley was saying.
The sequel is said to be ‘in the works’, although no release date has yet been decided. The beast in Cloverfield was supposed to be a baby (!), so maybe we’ll see a fully-grown LSA in Cloverfield 2!
© Steve JC Johnson - 2011
Updated 25th July 2011