10 Cloverfield Lane: Monster vs. Saviour May23


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10 Cloverfield Lane: Monster vs. Saviour

Screenshot from 10 Cloverfield Lane

I sit a helpless bystander watching the dysfunction and horror play out on the screen. I am a powerless observer of a tiny underground bunker, bearing mute witness to the horror of humankind. I watch a young woman named Michelle move about an environment less and less safe, while her “saviour” Howard seems to become a monster; my suspicions are reinforced by his quiet little voice and pathological lack of emotion. I can’t offer escape, I can’t yell for help, I’m a bound observer to a monster sitting in front of me masquerading as a protector.

He speaks nice words and presents his case in a fair way. He’s saved Michelle from death; there had been an unknown attack on the outside world and he was keeping her safe. So he’s a little old fashioned, a bit unusual, somewhat reserved… wouldn’t anyone who had the forethought to build a bunker in case of the apocalypse be a little less normal?

Maybe he’s just misunderstood. I mean, he’s got a family and a story and good reasons for all that he is doing. Is it wrong to expect a little respect for saving everyone from death? You can’t blame him for being a little closed off, after all he doesn’t know them very well. For all he knows, they are the psychopaths in the room…

Yeah, we’ve all heard that one before. We’ve seen this story play out time and time again. Oh sure, he doesn’t mean to get angry, he’s just passionate. He doesn’t mean to lash out, he doesn’t mean to scream, he doesn’t mean to cause so much damage… except as time goes on, the excuses wear thin and you realize he does intend harm. He does mean to hurt. He does mean to control. He builds up trust so when the explosion of anger and mistreatment comes—and its going to come—everyone will accept it as an anomaly. But each explosion wears away trust until the moment comes when Howard shoots Emmett in the face; then he says to Michelle, “It’s okay, it was always going to be this way.” And we see the monster that man becomes when he uses his own will as a guide. Man is a poor author of his own salvation; all he creates is a monster.

It isn’t until he dies for her that I realize the truth.

If Howard is the ultimate example of man creating salvation under his own power, Emmett is the opposite. Loveable, rascally Emmett who seems so weak and pathetic and pointless at first, he enables Michelle’s escape by providing critical components that will equip her to survive. He encourages, supports and uplifts her in the moments when she doubts. And he sacrifices himself for her, not once, but twice. He takes the blame for her disobedience onto himself, redirecting suspicion and giving his life so she can escape.

And half way through the movie, I had thought he was the bad guy.

I had questioned the motives of the true saviour of this story. I had watched him, waiting for him to turn on her, questioning his motives and assuming he had darkness in his heart. Even when I saw him realize they only had enough material for one suit and knew it would cost his life to save hers, I doubted. Even when he put himself in harm’s way, protecting her, I wondered what he was thinking.

It isn’t until he dies for her that I realize the truth.

This sacrificial friendship lived out through Emmett is everything Howard pretends to be when he is, in fact, the opposite. Emmett is the true saviour and the true friend. While Howard sees salvation as taking what he wants, Emmett defines it as freedom from darkness, friendship without demand, and self-sacrifice.

As the lights come on and the credits roll, I realize I’ve been watching the two potential outcomes of my life playing out on the screen. I could become as evil and selfish as Howard if I chose to. If I hadn’t chosen to have faith in God and live my life according to His direction, I might have. The horrors of Howard’s life, however, is set against Emmett’s, a perfect example of what Christ is calling me to be.

In light of these two presentations of how to define salvation, I must ask myself whether I want to become the monster who attempts to justify destructive and self-serving behaviour as a product of my environment, or whether I want to step into humility and lay down my life so that someone else can live.

Dustin Schellenberg

Dustin Schellenberg

Contributing Writer at Area of Effect
Dustin spends his time exploring the far reaches of space, understand the ancient ways of might and magic, and wandering the post-apocalyptic wastes. If it has a reasonably open world, a crafting system and some way to sneak around, he'll be there. When not gaming, he's probably planning his next D&D character (because his DM keeps killing off the old ones). He is a competent bass player and guitarist, mediocre mid laner and outright awful FPS player. He is father of two, husband of one, a sometimes theologian, and all-times pastor of Crestview Park Free Methodist Church in Winnipeg, MB.
Dustin Schellenberg