Marketing 101: How Cloverfield Failed to Deliver on Expectations

Earlier this evening, I joined several other social media type folks down in D.C. for a first night showing of Cloverfield, the film that was so secretive it didn’t have a name other than 01182008 until sometime last month. The film trailers were released on the internet sometime last year and bloggers, and movie folks started buzzing about what the heck the moview as about.

The trailer did not give any information. Nothing since Snakes on the Plane made the net buzz, quite the way early trailers of Cloverfield did. And this is where things went wrong.

You see, the viral marketing of this movie was phenomenal. Give people something curious enough to talk about and they will. Grip them with camcorder shots of NYC being destroyed by something, and then let them start discussing among themselves. Give people a compelling reason to show the trailer to a friend, and you’ve got money in the bank.

Not so fast.

All Cloverfield’s marketing campaign did was drum up expectations and, as any political candidate will tell you in this election season, it’s important to moderate expectations in case of failure. Cloverfield did not.

Spoiler alert.

The movie starts out odd enough with the screen shrunk to less than a quarter of its size, causing viewers to think there was something wrong with the theatre. This quickly adjusted as we are introduced to a cast of characters that are all friends. Well, except Rob and Beth who apparently have been shacking up a bit. Rob is going away to Japan to take a new position with a company there and his friends are throwing a surprise party for him.

Beth shows up looking like she’s looking for a best gown waiting to have a wardrobe malfunction award with her new loverboy, Travis. The rumors spread among the friends causing an uneasy Beth to leave the party. Then the drama begins.

Some kind of “earthquake” occurs, the power goes out, people pile into the street where the Statue of Liberty’s head comes flying in some miles from New York Harbor into the streets. Right.

Fast forward a bit.

Some kind of freak monster of the Godzilla variety appears to be ravaging the streets of New York. Little spawn creatures a la Gears of War bite people and that does something really gross that I can’t identify. Because, you know there’s these crazy monsters out there that love to ravage New York and all.

Rob tells his friends that he knows what he’s doing and he’s going to go find Beth who is in some Columbus Circle apartment high rise. Again, the movie never explains how Beth and Travis manage to get from Lower Manhattan to 59th St/Columbus Circle in a matter of minutes, but then again, the story probably isn’t meant to be believable.

The movie is a little difficult to handle. It takes all the horror film stereotypes (Don’t walk toward the light, girls running around in the midst of chaos looking fantastically beautiful and, oh… nice heels!). Anyone seeing it should definitely get the back row as well, unless you like motion sickness (the film is all filmed by a camcorder).

Then of course, there was the end (or lack thereof). IT was such a horrible ending that everyone in the theatre stayed in their seats certain that there would be an encore after the credits. J.J. Abrams couldn’t even give us that.

There are so many unfinished storylines. So many questions. An incomplete plot and, oh yeah, it cost me $10.75. I should have paid $5 because I only got half the movie.

Spoiler end.

Bottom line is that the movie left everyone with high expectations. In the end, our money was stolen as expectations were not fulfilled. We were used for our bully pulpit and were not repaid.

The good part was that I saw the first trailer for the new Star Trek movie. That looks hot.

0.5 stars.