10 Cloverfield Lane is as sneaky as movies come. Only scant details about the movie have been revealed in trailers, photos and through fans decoding its vast viral marketing, reminiscent to the unveiling of Cloverfield nine years ago. But now that we’ve finally seen it we can tell you just how it is, and mostly isn’t, related to Matt Reeves’ 2008 monster movie. If you want to remain completely surprised, check out our spoiler-free review. Otherwise, continue into very spoilery territory where we will ruin some big plot twists. You’ve been warned!

In the film, Mary Elizabeth Winstead is Michelle, a woman who gets in a car crash and wakes up to find her leg chained to a pipe in an underground bunker cell. This is the fall-out shelter built by John Goodman’s Howard located at the titular address, about 40 miles north of Lake Charles, Louisiana. Howard tells Michelle he saved her from the accident and from an attack happening above ground, something he’s convinced has poisoned the air. Michelle soon after meets John Gallagher Jr.’s Emmet, a local Louisiana guy who says he fought his way into the bunker after seeing a giant flash while driving. Like Howard, Emmet is convinced something bad is also happening up top, but Michelle remains skeptical.

Before we get into what 10 Cloverfield Lane is, let’s start by highlighting what the Dan Trachtenberg directed film is not. 10 Cloverfield Lane is not a sequel by any means, nor a spin-off. Though it likely takes place in the present day – the only big clue to the era is Michelle’s iPhone 6 – it doesn’t reference the events of the former movie, explain their origin nor reveal what happened afterwards. When Howard tells Michelle that Earth has been attacked and everyone above ground is likely dead, she responds with pure shock and disbelief. It’s a response that could only come from someone where monster invasions are pure fiction and where a fall-out shelter seems more ludicrous than practical. So we can logically conclude that whatever happened in 2008 in New York City didn’t happen in Michelle, Emmet or Howard’s lifetime. But there is the possibility 10 Cloverfield Lane exists in a parallel universe.

The next major area the films differ are with their monsters. Cloverfield‘s was a creature awakened from the Atlantic Ocean following deep sea drilling by the Japanese oil company Tagruato, the job Rob Hawkins was on his way to begin in the original movie. In the new film there’s more than one monster: Howard, who’s true nature I won’t spoil, and (drum roll) aliens. That’s right, you won’t be seeing the Cloverfield monster and it’s gangly bug-like legs here. In 10 Cloverfield Lane‘s final sequence, the actual creatures that have attacked Louisiana are revealed to be giant worm-like aliens. The one we actually see is a long dark slivering creature with a mouth that retracts to reveal circular rows of razor-sharp teeth. Then there’s a spaceship that emits a glaring white light and has extending robotic arms to pick up things and suck them into its mouth-like opening door. Whether or not these aliens actually polluted the Earth’s air is never completely revealed, but they certainly don’t come in peace.

So what does 10 Cloverfield Lane have in common with Reeves movie?

Honestly, not much. Hardcore Cloverfield fans will be pleased to see a Kelvin gas station in the new movie and a Slusho sign, but the two movies remain free of overt links. But there is one known connection between both: satellites.

Paramount Pictures
Paramount Pictures

In the film, Emmet tells Michelle that Howard is ex-Navy and used to work with satellites. Howard keeps a radio-tracking device in his bunker, which he says hasn’t received any incoming signals since the attack. The movie’s viral marketing campaign gives a few more details on Howard’s background on the (fake) website for Tagruato. Goodman’s Howard Stambler is featured as one of February’s Employees of the Month, listed as a “Telemery Analyst” for the company Bold Futura, one of Tagruato’s contractor subsidiaries. Under Howard’s photo is a short description that reveals he’s worked at the company for seven years and most recently had “a significant breakthrough diagnosing transmission complications with two of our governmental clients’ orbiting satellites.” Hmm.

Could Howard’s work have anything to do with Tagruato’s crashing satellite seen at the end of Cloverfield? If we’re to believe the new movie takes place today, then probably not since Howard would have began working for Bold Futura in roughly 2009, presumably two years after the events depicted on the Cloverfield tape. However that crashing sateille isn’t totally unrelated.10 Cloverfield Lane‘s opening shot looks out onto a body of water, similar to Rob’s camera at Coney Island. Though I wasn’t able to catch any obvious clues in this shot, it’s certainly a nod to the original movie. Still, thanks to Howard, Tagruato is once again related to the emergence of a creature. Though Howard is portrayed as a nutty conspiracy theorist in the movie, the secret digital messages he sent to his daughter via a viral password-protected site reveal that he’s been suspicious of an incoming attack. The only thing we know about it in the movie is that a giant flash appeared across the sky, as seen by Emmet before racing to Howard’s shelter. This was most likely the light emitted from the spaceships, which are shown again at the end of the movie.

Could time be a clue?

The concept of time also remains a big mystery in the new movie and might be a clue. It’s unknown how long Michelle is inside the bunker before she gets out and sees the alien spaceship, and is also unknown when exactly the attack happens. One thing that could have importance is the time shown on her iPhone. While driving, she hangs up the phone with her boyfriend and her phone reads 6:27pm. A moment later the camera shows the car radio clock, which reads 12:36, and then she’s struck by another car and knocked unconscious. When Michelle wakes up in Howard’s bunker, she retrieves her cell phone and it reads 6:29pm with her calendar reading the date “7" (I missed the initial date before the car crash). Though this could just be the next evening, or the radio was simply set to the wrong time, it seems far from a mistake or unimportant information. Did the alien attack stop time, or change it?

Paramount Pictures

The opposite may also be true, that more time has passed than we’re aware of. Before the crash, the camera focuses on Michelle’s freshly painted nails on the steering wheel longer than usual. Once she wakes up in the cell, more shots of Michelle’s nail polish reveal it is noticeably chipped and has grown past her nail beds. Since she’s been hooked up to an IV drip, it’s possible Howard kept her sedated long before the actual attack took place. We also know that Emmet rushed to the bunker immediately after it supposedly began, forcing his way inside and breaking his arm. We don’t hear him entering the bunker until the third or fourth time Michelle sees Howard in her cell, revealing that some time has indeed passed between the car crash and the actual attack.

What does it all mean?

Did Tagruato, via Bold Futura, once again cause an apocalyptic attack? Could Slusho!, which according to Tagruato’s site has recently been expanded into West Africa, have anything to do with it? Was Howard the one who discovered the incoming invasion first, or was he the one who summoned the aliens through satellite communications? Or maybe the aliens are distance relatives of the Cloverfield monster. After all, J.J. Abrams did say 10 Cloverfield Lane was a “blood relative” of the original movie, so perhaps the aliens are literally its relatives from space. Abrams has talked about a third Cloverfield movie, which fans speculated could be Bad Robot’s upcoming God Particle, about astronauts in a space station who make a “terrifying discovery.” That may end up being the film that ties everything together.

Or perhaps there are no discernible answers. Beyond Howard’s employer, the only major thing 10 Cloverfield Lane shares with the Cloverfield universe is a similar thematic and atmospheric temperament. It’s a largely unrelated movie that literally began as a separate project and evolved into a thriller with sci-fi trappings. It may not explain the mysteries fans hope it will, but perhaps on multiple viewings more discreet clues will be dug up.