Nov 26, 2007

CLOVERFIELD Spoilers - The Marketing Tease

CLOVERFIELD is the title of the exciting new film from producer J. J. Abrams (LOST, MISSION IMPOSSIBLE 3). Abrams and company has done an incredible marketing job on this film, and indie filmmakers everywhere should duly take note.

Whether the modern monster movie is your type of film or not, a little web research will reveal how to market a cheap-looking (HD video) film so that everyone will be talking about it. There are two trailers available online, one being a "teaser" and the second being more polished (which, if you look closely, has also been reshot in some places -- Rob's entrance into his farewell party -- and in other places upgraded with special effects -- compare the two versions of the statue-of-liberty-severed-heads that come tumbling down a deserted Manhattan thoroughfare).

The first trailer was released with no title, only a release date and the recognizable name of J. J. Abrams. All we have to look at, in terms of visuals are some sloppy-looking homemade party video footage. The real genre intentions of the film set in when a minor earthquake seems to shake the apartment. The partygoers rush out onto the roof to witness not-so-distant skyscrapers exploding into flame. The fact that the film takes place at night adds to mystery of "the attack".

We are left with a stylistic wink to THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, but on a grander scale. The acting is more convincing, the set pieces more spectacular. The presentation of the trailer (and promise of the film, seemingly) is that these are real events happening to your average 20-somethings, with completely unsubtle references to 9/11, but they are presented in a horror context, so we are ready to be shocked, horrified, and occasionally mocking of the poor characters involved in this scenario.

This film is becoming popular from word of mouth. Lack of information in the teaser trailer led people to rush to the web and discuss. Speculation and rumor has taken over at this point. You can't buy marketing like that. If this film makes more money than Abrams' recent MISSION IMPOSSIBLE 3, and with no-name actors in the leads, then CLOVERFIELD will be a real marketing coup -- and it doesn't have that far to go ($181 Million in box office minus $150 Million dollar budget equals $31 Million).

I haven't seen budget estimates of CLOVERFIELD, but with no A-list talent and shot on HD, it can't have been too expensive. The special effects will be considerable, one presumes, but in time-tested H.P. Lovecraft fashion, the dangerous "monster" or "monsters" seem to be kept as a backdrop in the trailer, a frightening presence in the distance. All we witness is their destruction. It's not a guy in a rubber mask running around with a hatchet.

If you're thinking, "Oh, the only way they got all this word of mouth was by showing a trailer in a movie theater, which costs millions of dollars and is something out of my reach," think again. The marketing campaign for this film appears to be based on BLAIR WITCH as well. That film, as you recall, had no money and started a viral web buzz just by encouraging people to think there was a real Blair witch and that the film was a documentary. THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT cost $25,000 and grossed $248 million worldwide. Creativity can beat cash any day of the week. (Robert Rodriguez has made a career out of trying to be intensely creative, flashy, and provocative, but all-the-while cheap, making even his modestly performing films very profitable.)

So soon, we'll see what happens in CLOVERFIELD, or what the title even means. On 01-18-08, we'll all finally find out if MUPPETS TAKE MANHATTAN continues to be the most frightening New York monster movie ever made.