When comparing the events in the film with the events that occurred in real life, it is easy to separate the two, as one had to do with terrorist hijacking a plane, and the other with an enormous alien being attacking the island of Manhattan in a brutish manner. However, many aspects of the film allude to 9/11, such as the location, confusion of the main characters, tone, destruction of well-known American landmarks, and even the marketing of the film. The marketing of the film makes it incredibly evident to the potential viewers that something happens to the Statue of Liberty early on in the film. The posters depict a headless Statue, while showcasing the destroyed New York City in the background with the tagline “Some Thing Has Found Us.”
Many films have destroyed famous landmarks to make this sort of impact on the viewers. Perhaps the most well-known is Independence Day (Emmerich, 1996) where the antagonistic aliens destroy the White House. This was incredibly shocking to see at the time of its release, as it was very uncommon to show the destruction of something so sacred in films. Following 9/11, including the destruction of almost any American landmarks became unacceptable to show in film, as it was too sensitive of a topic for many years after the incident. Even small occurrences, such as a trailer for Spider-Man (Raimi, 2002) being pulled off the air just for featuring the twin towers in it. After many years of this trope being absent from film, Cloverfield was one of the first movies to bring idea back, with the severed head of the Statue of Liberty being thrown down to the streets below, showcasing a link between the movie and the events of 9/11.
The feelings of fear and confusion that the film brings up are very relatable to the 9/11 attacks. Who is attacking us? What is happening, and why can I not contact my loved ones? Are they okay? These are all questions and feelings shared between the characters in the film and those that experienced the events on September 11th. Starting a seemingly normal night at a party, the characters are soon thrown into chaos as a mysterious being begins to destroy the city. As they make their way down to the streets to see what is going on, a large building collapses and engulfs the streets with dust, debris and smoke. The characters are forced to run as fast as they can to escape this massive dust cloud, and struggle to breathe as it coats their lungs with smoke. This is taken directly from the events of 9/11, when the first of the twin towers fell. People came down into the streets to investigate what was happening, and watched in horror as the building collapsed to the ground, not knowing that in a few short seconds they too would be running for their lives to escape a cloud of death. After these tragedies occur, in the film and in real life, people are left in the streets covered in ashes and frantically asking each other if they know what is happening. The streets look like a warzone contained within the eye of a storm, and give the ultimate feeling of desolation. Throughout the film, our main character Rob, played by Michael Stahl-David, is trying desperately to get in contact with his ex-girlfriend Beth, played by Odette Yustman. We see his desperation while trying to get in contact with her to see if she is alright, and his frustration and fear whenever he is unable to, and is left to contemplate whether she is okay or not. This is also very reminiscent of the countless amounts of people who were trying to get in contact with their family members who were in or around the sites of the crashes, or even just lived in New York City in general. The massive amount of calls caused the phone lines to go down. The feeling of uncertainty and confusion when it comes to a loved one being alive or not is one of the worst feelings in the world, and in the film and on September 11th, there was no way to cure that fear.
In real life, when things had seemed to calm down a bit, the second building of the twin towers collapsed, reigniting the panic, and doubling the terror all within a few minutes. A similar event occurs in the film, where it seems as if they have the beast figured out, and the attacks are a bit less frequent. All of a sudden, these large dog-sized parasites begin to drop from the creatures body and add a whole new element of terror to the already horrific situation. The parasites begin attacking the people below, and cause one of the main characters Marlena, played by Lizzy Caplan, to die in a disgusting and horrific manner.
Another connection between the two, and possibly the most obvious is the location, New York City. It is common for a large-scale disaster movie or large monster movie to take place in a city like New York or London, as they are some of the largest and most recognizable cities in the world, and therefore people will be able to relate with the destruction of it more than any other city that they may have never heard of before. But I believe that the setting was chosen for more of a reason than just the normal relatable reason. I believe New York was chosen to really seal in the fact that this movie is an allusion to 9/11. The viral marketing for the movie adds to the effect that the director and producers wished to give off, in the sense that they wanted the movie to feel as real as possible. The trailers for the movie were advertised as footage that the U.S. Government recovered from the area formerly known as Central Park, and did not really have any bearings of a normal movie trailer. In addition, each of the main characters was given their own Myspace page with various posts, music pages and even had them all as friends with each other. The pictures and posts on their pages really made these characters feel like normal people in our own world, and added to the tragedy of the movie by having these people we “know” be taken away from us in this horrific situation about which we can do nothing about.
Finally, while not confirmed or officially canon yet, there is a theory going around that has a lot of credibility to it. It theorizes that there are actually two monsters, not just one, that are attacking New York City in the film, specifically a mother and a child. This is supported by the fact, that in the few glimpses we get of the monster, there are various differences between the views we get, with one of the monsters being much larger and older looking, and the other being slightly smaller, and younger looking. It is theorized that the child accidently made its way to earth, and is not acting out of malicious intent, but is just scared. When it is attacked, the mother comes to its rescue and attacks the city in order to protect it. The innocents end up paying for the actions of the true attackers. Cloverfield and 9/11 may not seem very connected at first glimpse, but upon further inspection, you see just how closely related the two actually are.