It's not easy to hide a 500-foot monster nowadays.
But that's exactly what the filmmakers behind Paramount Pictures' "Cloverfield" have done.
Producer J.J. Abrams and company have maintained an air of mystery surrounding the movie, about a giant creature demolishing New York City, with just days to go before its Jan. 18 opening. It's been a Godzilla-size task to keep that kind of secrecy in an era of spoiler Web sites, saturation advertising and product tie-ins.
"The actual creature, he's hiding somewhere," jokes the film's director, Matt Reeves. "Everybody knew about how part of the fun of the whole thing was sneaking up on people."
The "whole thing" Reeves is referring to is the story of five twentysomething New Yorkers who are in the midst of a party when a behemoth the size of a skyscraper attacks. They chronicle their efforts to survive through the night on a hand-held video camera.
But there is little chance of sneaking up on anyone anymore after the buzz generated from the first teaser trailer, which was the talk of late summer. While most action-movie trailers go for overload, "Cloverfield" went for a more cryptic approach.
There were no cool-effects shots of the creature, just innocuous Handycam images of a goodbye party interrupted by an explosion in downtown Manhattan, an ominous noise (a roar?) - and a "Whoa!" shot of the severed head of the Statue of Liberty hurtling down the street. The title of the movie - military code for the monster, says the director - wasn't even revealed until November.
Reeves says the trailer itself took eight weeks to shoot. At that point, there wasn't even a script; the actors, a cast of relative unknowns led by Michael Stahl-David ("The Black Donnellys"), improvised their lines.
"The mystery that's in the teaser was very much [part of] the entire movie," says Reeves.
That mystery extended to the set, where writer Drew Goddard's script was printed on special colored paper that prevented photocopying.
So tantalizing was the mystery of the trailer that Internet sites popped up analyzing every frame. A line of dialogue spoken by Reeves himself ("It's alive ... it's huge!") was misheard as "It's a lion!" - sparking rumors the movie was an adaptation of a Japanese cartoon called "Voltron," about robot lions that link up into one giant robot.
For the record, it's not.
"If you go online to the various 'Cloverfield' mystery sites, they've got reams of actual video footage of them shooting the film," says Harry Knowles of aintitcoolnews.com. "There's quite a bit about the look of the film. The one thing they haven't leaked out is the actual look of the monster."
Reeves says that the "Cloverfield" creature - whatever it will look like - is just a part of a character-driven story.
"The fun of the idea of the movie," he says, "was always if anyone from the audience was there and actually going through this experience, this might've been the movie they made."
Written by Ethan Sacks, Courtesy of Paramount Pictures
I'm looking for Cloverfield.