on colonics and cloverfields

Wiped out from another round of colon hydrotherapy (personal waste management), I decided to watch a movie on t.v. for the first time in a while, i.e. at a scheduled time that I wasn’t selecting. That movie: 10 Cloverfield Lane. All I remembered about its release was seeing a high score on Rotten Tomatoes (90%) and knowing that it took place in the Cloverfield universe. I still haven’t seen Cloverfield, and I’m not really inclined to after this.

From RT’s reductive review synopsis:

Smart, solidly crafted, and palpably tense, 10 Cloverfield Lane makes the most of its confined setting and outstanding cast — and suggests a new frontier for franchise filmmaking.

Cloverfield is described on Wikipedia as a “found footage monster horror film;” 10 Cloverfield Lane as a science fiction psychological thriller. It had moments of palpable tension, sure, but it was mostly comical and flat-out bizarre. It begins like an indie film might. No dialogue, just a score running over a montage of visuals that communicate Michelle’s unfulfilling relationship and her desire to leave it and her old life behind. And so on the road she goes, only to get sidetracked -sideswiped (how exactly she seems to get chosen by Howard we never know) – by Howard and external circumstances way beyond her control. It’s interesting that what feels like the first independent choice she’s made in a long time – she’s choosing her own happiness – leads her into deeper oppression and dependence. Emboldened by her decision to leave, of course, she never accepts her strange new role in Howard’s creepy doomsday bunker, where he’s just looking for a new daughter (maybe?).

What’s worse: the known monster within or the unknown monster out there that the monster within claims he’s protecting you from? I’ll take that as a driving thematic force, and the film clearly tries to separate itself in terms of what filmmakers can do within an established franchise (like all these Star Wars stories coming out). Alien invasion? Let’s see what’s happening on a small farm out in rural America while the cities are getting attacked. Great premise.

Although probably a terribly insulting, liberally biased one. The story is basically a city girl defeating a backwards hick-farmer, whose background we never quite get to grasp. Because who cares? Evil is evil, right? The psychological “thrills” stem from intentional ambiguity. The message: stay in the cities. Better to suffer under an alien invasion than subjugated to the aliens in our own country. Which is what rural farmers effectively are to affluent city-dwellers, and there’s been no rush to bridge that gulf (leading to the gulf’s true length to be revealed in our recent election). Do we really think middle America is stuck in the past? And in such twisted ways? This film then is just a liberal’s wet dream in that it confirms their worst nightmares.

Anyway, the entire movie is like a bottle episode (see: Community), with everyone, characters and audience, stuck in one place. So when Michelle finally gets out, we breathe that incredible sigh of relief with her. In the cave – bound to Howard’s logic and narrative, which we do start to believe alongside Michelle, for a moment – we have nowhere to go, so we may as well settle in and accept Howard’s unsettlingly youthful movie collection. The one scene that was legitimately tense: when Howard couldn’t identify Michelle as a woman and kept claiming she was a girl or a little princess. John Goodman killed it the entire time, but that’s a clip for his Oscar reel. On that note, the acting is convincing, so that kept me interested enough not to change the channel. But there was something ultimately silly about the whole affair. Maybe it’s because I was wiped out from the colonic and operating on a low hum of brain computing power. Or maybe it’s ridiculous how, in such a tight environment, Michelle and Emmett managed to scheme anything under Howard’s obsessively watchful eye. If he’s paying attention enough to see Michelle touch Emmett’s hand during their first dinner, surely he’s aware enough to know (and he eventually does) that they’re planning an escape behind his back. (Okay, Michelle does steal his keys, right out from under his nose, in that same scene, but still…dude is mad paranoid and perpetually expecting betrayal.)

I’ll give the movie credit on this front: it doesn’t over-explain anything; in fact, it refuses to explain most things. I’ll take that over the insulting exposition from films like Shutter Island, where apparently Martin Scorcese thought so little of his audience that he devoted at least 15 minutes at the end to having one of his characters outline the entire movie on poster boards or whatever. (I don’t remember the details, but it was rubbish.) In 10 Cloverfield Lane, we don’t care about it because we’re experiencing the film through Michelle’s eyes, and her goal is simple: GET OUT.

When she does get out, her incredulous response is our response: what the f? Really? Aliens? Oh yeah, I forgot this was in the Cloverfield universe, which is a testament to the efficacy of the storytelling up to that point. (So what is my actual opinion here? I don’t have one. I’m just reporting. Mostly.) But that then only made the ending unbearable and annoying. Now she’s suddenly Will Smith in Independence Day? No, thanks. (So I do have an opinion! Kind of.)

In the end: colonics.

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