The Complete "Cloverfield"

"Cloverfield" is the title of the upcoming JJ Abrams produced giant monster movie due out 1-18-08. You may have seen the Teaser in theaters showing before "Transformers". You may have seen the Trailer in theaters showing before "Beowulf". Or you haven't, in which case you can see them online in HD at Apple, or at YouTube. I recommend you watch the Teaser first.

If you haven't already noticed, this column is loaded for bear with links. The reason is simple--this rabbit hole is deep. So the links are in lieu of an encyclopedic dissertation which, if you decide to follow the rabbit, you'll need. Otherwise, the narrative will bring you up to speed and ready to play.

Early July 2007, Transformers opens and premiering before it is a Teaser for an untitled JJ Abrams project that quickly becomes known as either "1-18-08" (its release date and website), or "Cloverfield" (its working title). The Teaser succeeded in generating a huge amount of online buzz. Wikipedia and uncounted blogs soon followed. Some initial confusion lead to the idea that what JJ Abrams had in mind wasn't just your run of the mill viral marketing, but in fact an ARG, and for those of you who don't know about that, there's a standing army of ARGers online and eager to play. So the game was on, and has been ever since, even though no one is really sure what the game exactly is, much less if there even is one.

Nevertheless, the gamers' unique vernacular has proven adept at describing Cloverfield's virtual reality. In particular "In-Game" and "GameJacks" work well to divvy up the Cloverfield inspired sites you'll find. GameJacks are self-explanatory, but for the non-web savvy, there's a lot of money and even fun to be had by setting up sites that pretend to be part of Cloverfield's marketing campaign. But don't be fooled. In fact, be very skeptical, as the GameJacks far outnumber the In-Game sites. In-Game site are similarly self-explanatory, but again due to their strangeness, I'll explain. For a reason as yet unknown, Abrams and Co. have created alternate reality sites. That is, sites that pretend to represent real products, real corporations, real people. They are: Slusho! and Tagruato. Somehow, someway, these sites are related to 'the monster' and the movie. There are also the character development MySpace accounts of the characters in the movie. Get to know them so you care when the monster eats them? Or maybe they know something we don't?

So that's your primer. There's a movie coming out. Its makers are having some fun with it online. A subculture has grown up around the mystery of it all. Said freaks have produced a mountain of speculation over the past few months leaving newcomers a lot overwhelmed. But they needn't be. Go back to Slusho!. That button on the far right, hover your mouse over it. See those Japanese characters that appear on the cup, just below the word Slusho!™? Those characters translate to "Competition". Now click on the button. The speech balloon that pops up says, "WE ARE COMING, WE'LL FIND YOU SOON!!" And there you have it. The game, or the "contest" is yet to be revealed.

So what now? Well, those aforementioned freaks aren't entirely counterproductive. They've been at it for over 4 months--enough time to separate the wheat from the flakes--and I've been watching them the whole time. You have options:

1. Unfiction is the hands down leader of the pack for watching, reporting and deciphering the Cloverfield universe. It's a forum, and takes some getting used to as far as navigation, but well worth the effort.

2. The blogs. There are a lot of Cloverfield blogs to choose from. However, a large percentage of them suck. In fact, the various ways in which the sucking Cloverfield blogs suck pretty much cover the spectrum of ways in which blogs can suck. That's not to say that there aren't some good ones out there, and I'll give you those, but it is to say if you ignore my recommendations, don't say I didn't warn you. Here's the short list: Dave's Movie Corner; Cloverfield Clues; Cloverfield News; and 1.18.08.

3. Lastly, a few of the more established sites have adopted Cloverfield as a pet project and, while usually a day late, still manage decent coverage and the occasional leak. They are: /film; Cinematical; and First Showing.

That pretty much covers it. You are officially up to speed. It's a guilty pleasure that has something for everyone, and an expiration date. It's also going to be a case study in new media marketing, and has the potential--depending on how good the movie is--to be the next modern myth/franchise. In fact, the real prize from the new media standpoint is already known. The movie may be titled "Cloverfield", but the monster remains unnamed. Whether the filmmakers name it, or the fans label it, that unique name will join the likes of Godzilla and King Kong and become a domain name/keyword worth owning.