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The Mystery of Cloverfield

Have you heard of Cloverfield? If not, odds are that you don’t spend much time in online forums dedicated to movies and TV shows. If you have, you probably wish you knew more about it. For the uninitiated, Cloverfield is a new monster disaster flick from producer J. J. Abrams (Lost, Alias). The movie, which premieres in the U.S. on January 18, depicts a monster attack on New York City as witnessed by a small group of young adults. Little else about the movie is known for sure.

The first glimpse of Cloverfield was provided in a trailer that ran before the Transformers movie last summer. That trailer did not include a title, a fact that inspired a surprising rush of curiosity among online communities. In the face of this sudden interest, the people behind the movie engaged in a sophisticated viral marketing campaign, releasing slow trickles of information through a number of different websites related to the movie and other projects that J. J. Abrams has been involved with. In an attempt to keep up the mystique surrounding the movie, it has been known by a variety of different code names at different times, including Cheese and Slusho (the name of a fictional soft drink in the world of Alias).

Speculation about the plot has been widespread, with ideas as varied as a secret spinoff of the TV show Lost and a modern-day take on H. P. Lovecraft’s Cthulu stories. One theory that appears to hold water is that Cloverfield is at its heart a way for J. J. Abrams to present a new take on the old Godzilla movies. Details about the monster which attacks New York are the closest-guarded secret about the movie, but suggestions are that it is as big as a skyscraper and comes from the ocean depths.

Some sources suggest that the movie will hearken back to the Blair Witch Project, in that it will be a video diary of sorts. Cloverfield, they say, will be presented as an uncut videotape taken by a small group of people struggling to survive the rampage. This idea is supported by the fact that all of the teasers released so far appear to show handheld camera work. The jittery, rough look of handheld cameras has become increasingly popular in recent years, but a whole movie of shots that won’t sit still would be quite a risk. J. J. Abrams is not known for shying away from a risky project, however. Four years ago, Lost was dismissed by many as an overly-expensive rip-off of Survivor.

There are those that doubt J. J. Abrams can pull off another surprise, however. The release of Cloverfield in January – a traditional dumping ground for bad movies – has raised speculation that the movie will be a giant flop. The minimal release of actual footage from the movie provides more fuel to that fire. Is the movie kept secret because the mystery makes it that much cooler, or because people who see what it really looks like will stay away in droves? If the buzz on the Internet is any indication, the movie is bound for a very good opening weekend. Whether anyone will still want to see it the next week is, like the movie’s plot, completely unknown.

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