Why Don’t We Get More ‘CLOVERFIELD’ Style Surprise Mystery Movies?
It’s hard to believe it’s been a decade since Cloverfield was released. The film itself was an entertaining and modern twist to the classic monster movie style of old. But it was the initial reveal of the film’s existence that interested me most. It was an exercise in experimental, and risky, marketing that began with a mysterious trailer that set the internet ablaze.
At first, the film was only referred to by its release date. 1-18-08. Speculation and theories continued as hype for the film gained steam.
It was a found footage monster film that brilliantly capitalized on a trend typically associated with horror films. While also focusing on the blossoming idea of viral marketing bolstered by social media. 10 years ago, it wasn’t a requisite for a film to release alongside viral sites, accounts for every major social network, internet only clips and trailers, teaser trailers for the trailers themselves. (And trailers for those too.)
The J.J Abrams produced monster movie would rely on word of mouth and social media buzz.
What is the Cloverfield monster? What does it look like? How big is it? The campaign relied heavily on our own relentless curiosity. And it worked.
What was impressive about the marketing strategy was the confidence radiating from every frame of that first trailer. Here was a movie due to be released in a matter of months. No trailer one year in advance. No leaked images showing off concept art of the monster. Just a quick teaser and a brief wait for the answers we craved. It takes a lot for a studio (no matter how big or small) to take such a risk by hiding key elements of a borderline tent pole release. (Especially hiding the title!)
In my opinion, the film itself was worth the wait and it has since spawned an anthology of ‘somewhat’ connected films with sci-fi twists. Whether the Cloverfield universe is building towards something big remains to be seen but the foundations of the franchise were rooted in mystery. That’s what I loved the most about the original and its also why I feel a little let down today.
Back then, I thought Cloverfield would ignite a trend of surprise trailers and movie announcements. I thought we would get more secret projects and even more mysterious trailers that sold curiosity instead of spoilers.
We’ve seen a few come along over the years. Most notably, the surprise sequel to The Blair Witch Project titled… Blair Witch in 2016. That movie was cleverly disguised until just before its release. Brilliant.
2018 started off with the reveal that Danny MacBride is playing the son of Crocodile Dundee… I guess that’s something!
Projects like Blair Witch and Dundee are welcome surprises but… technically… they are sequels to existing franchises.
NOTE: JUST KIDDING! DUNDEE is juuuuuust a Superbowl commercial… Well played…
I thought there would be more reveals of the original variety. Brand new franchises for fans of all genres to look forward to.
You can easily make the argument that escalating budgets eliminates any risk a studio is willing to take with the budget. I get that. Cloverfield wasn’t a 100 million dollar blockbuster. The film was made for $25 million (not including marketing) and grossed over 80 million dollars domestically and over 170 million worldwide. Whether it was risky or not, it was a proven success. Hollywood trends are always built on the backs of brave blockbusters that prove the risk can be fruitful.
So why didn’t the mystery movie trend catch on? When will the next big ‘Cloverfield’ arrive? A movie none of us see coming? A movie we can all talk about and speculate on as the release date approaches. What’s wrong with hiding details as big as the film’s title itself behind the curtains? What’s wrong with a little mystery?
Maybe Cloverfield is just a special kind of cinematic monster. I would argue J.J Abrams is the undisputed king of mysteries in this generation. There haven’t been any ‘events’ like Cloverfield since. Even if you count the 2016 (sort of) sequel 10 Cloverfield Lane.
Now, Cloverfield 3 aka Cloverfield Station aka God Particle is around the corner. The marketing campaign has begun and we will venture into space for the first time. At least we get to analyze another Cloverfield movie. Will these films ever fully connect? Are they simply taking good scripts and slapping the Cloverfield brand on them or is there a grand plan in the works?
While we wait for those answers, my brain has ventured into the future. Who will step up and take on the Cloverfield mystery machine? Who will take a chance on a franchise and allow people’s imaginations to market the film? When will the next big mystery franchise emerge?