Remembering Cloverfield’s hype train.

If you missed the shocking news, 10 Cloverfield Lane — which will apparently have something to do with the original Cloverfield — debuts this March. Oh. My. God.

The first film — in particular the marketing of it — captured me in a way that few things do, to the point where I regularly spent hours a day reading theories, devising theories, and scouring the internet for whatever scraps of info I could find. (And no doubt, there were a lot of us doing that.)

The only people who know 10 Cloverfield Lane’s true ties to Cloverfield obviously aren’t talking, but fans are already all over it, combing the trailer frame by frame for clues. It’s just like the old days!

If you’ve seen Cloverfield but never bothered with the pre-release mysteries, here’s a crash course about what went down:

The first trailer was attached to Transformers and hit theaters in July of 2007. At that point, the movie hadn’t even been officially titled, with “1-18-08” — the film’s release date — becoming its nickname.

This trailer was intentionally mysterious, and the initial theories were subsequently wild. (A line spoken in the trailer was frequently misheard to reference “a lion,” leading some to believe that this was going to be a live action Voltron movie, of all things.)

Still, considering the Godzilla-esque roar heard just prior to an enormous explosion, most people understood this to be some kind of “giant monster movie.” But that was literally all we knew.


Then came the website, (Don’t go there now — the domain has since been repurchased and currently redirects to some forced-download nonsense that will probably tank your computer.)

Simple and cryptic, the site consisted of a series of photographs that you could drag all over the screen. Every image could also be flipped over, revealing not-very-helpful personal messages on the backs.

You could’ve devoured all of the content in 30 seconds, but Cloverfield fans were nothing if not thorough. It didn’t take long for someone to notice that after several minutes, the site auto-played the monster’s roar. So eerie and so awesome.

Eventually, television spots shed more light on the story. The one above was particularly notable, for two reasons:


Remember that shot of the monster darting between buildings right after the Statue of Liberty’s head comes flying down the street? The shot made the final cut, though it wasn’t nearly as important to the film as it was to the marketing.

People went CRAZY trying to determine “Clover’s” size and appearance based on those few dirty frames. Only after seeing the finished film did we realize that the shot’s effects were messy and did nothing to indicate the monster’s form, but man, I’ve lost count of the number of full-body doodles I’ve seen using that vague image for reference.

You should also remember the scene where Marlena (Lizzy Caplan’s character) literally blows up after being bit by a toxic “parasite.” (“Parasite” = one of those crab-dog creatures that dropped off of Clover’s back and wreaked almost as much havoc as he did.)

The shot of Marlena’s inflating silhouette was lightning fast in the film, but in this TV spot, it was deliberately slowed down, with the resulting “explosion” cut out. This gave rise to several theories, running the gamut from “little monsters hatching inside of people” to “people literally turning into giant monsters.”


Of course, most of the intrigue came from Cloverfield’s ARG. (Alternate Reality Game.) Even if you’ve never heard that term, you’ve probably played one. It’s common enough for upcoming movies (or shows, or comics or whatever) to be promoted with one or more intentionally coy websites that have some loose tie to the property at hand.

In layman’s terms, rather than give you a trailer and a press release, you’re fed supplemental fiction that somehow ties into the story you’re so interested in. These aren’t “games” in the traditional sense. Your reward is usually just knowledge, and even then, what you learn often makes you more confused.

Cloverfield’s ARG was legendary. There’s a reason you still hear about it today, and there’s a reason why so many sites reporting on 10 Cloverfield Lane can’t help but mention it. I love the movie to death, but I’d be lying if I said that it lived up to all of the build. Nothing could!

The CliffsNotes version:

Tagruato is an “evil” Japanese oil mining company with something to hide.

T.I.D.O. Wave is a group of “terrorists” (the good kind) aiming to expose Tagruato’s secrets.

Slusho is a mysterious beverage made from a secret ingredient found deep in the sea.

Jamie is a ditzy girl who makes odd videos for her boyfriend… who just happens to be a T.I.D.O. Wave activist.

– Also worth noting: All of the main characters had MySpace profiles. (Hey, it was 2007.)

Did these elements end up having anything to do with the final film? Yes, but not in such a direct way that you needed to know about them to enjoy Cloverfield.

Slusho, as it turns out, was the company that lead character Ben was about to go work for in Japan. (Watch the movie closely and you’ll notice that Rob’s brother Jason actually sports a Slusho shirt!)

Even Jamie popped up in the film, drunk on the couch during the party scene early in the film. This was merely a nod to ARG enthusiasts; casual viewers had no reason to notice her.

But here’s the biggest tie:

(Above photo courtesy of The Cloverfield Wiki)

Close to the film’s end, the video gets choppy and we see glimpses of Rob and Beth’s previously-recorded date at Coney Island. Eagle-eyed viewers noticed something falling into the ocean at a great distance. That, as it turned out, was the Japanese government’s ChimpanzIII satellite, which crashed from space and apparently woke up the sleeping monster, prior to the events of the movie.

This tied neatly into the ARG. One of Tagruato’s ocean oil rigs, the Chuai Station, was right where the satellite would’ve fallen. Enthusiasts had already been given reason to suspect that not everything was on the up and up at Chuai, with one T.I.D.O. Wave message remarking that no oil was being drilled for at the station. Was Chuai merely a cover story so Tagruato could investigate something other than oil? Well, look at this:

In what was arguably the ARG’s finale — figurative moments before the film’s debut — a series of videos in the style of actual news reports hit the web, showing a massive incident at the Chuai Station. (And this was executed beautifully. Many of the videos were dropped on YouTube, but others were thrown on such obscure video sharing sites that they took days to find.)

Though the “reporters” in these videos rarely made the leap, we were obviously seeing Clover tear apart the oil rig before embarking on its trip to Manhattan. Sure, we didn’t leave the ARG knowing all that much about the monster, but this was still a satisfying payoff to months of eye-straining, brain-scrambling devotion.


Once the film’s release let every cat out of the bag, saw one more update, this time with additional — and much more violent — photographs. Most or all of them had already turned up in the ARG by then, but they still served the purpose of bringing everything closer to canon. (Another satisfying payoff!)

The movie’s release signaled the end of the ARG, but definitely not of the fan theories. Even months after the film’s debut, I remember reading an awesome essay supporting the idea that there was actually more than one giant monster in the film. And hey, who knows, maybe I’ll find out in March that the guy was right all along!


The original Cloverfield was the gift that kept on giving. Hell, even after 1300 words, I’ve still left out some of the juiciest bits from the ARG, and haven’t even touched upon the several “official” monster designs that were fake-leaked and later disproven. There were even people who initially swore that Manhattan itself was the monster! By the time the film hit theaters, I felt less like I was “going to the movies” and more like I was finding out how the universe came to be.

I have no idea if 10 Cloverfield Lane’s marketing will include an ARG or anything resembling one, but that won’t stop fans from digging. (Actually, they already are!)

In closing: John Goodman is now part of the Cloverfield universe.


And I can die happy.