What is it?
That's the question moviegoers are asking about a mysterious trailer promoting an unnamed film shown in previews before Transformers
It's possibly Hollywood's biggest experiment with reverse psychology, creating immense want-to-see passion in people by refusing to say anymore.
The footage is grainy home video of a party in New York, featuring happy-looking twentysomethings dancing and mugging for the camera before disaster strikes.
The lights go out. The party people go to the roof and see huge fireballs erupting in the city. Panic ensues and the group runs to the street, where something large hurtles through the sky and crash-lands in the street in a heap of burned wreckage.
It's the Statue of Liberty's head.
There is no title on the trailer. The date 1/18/08 is shown, along with a line saying it is produced by Lost
co-creator and Mission: Impossible III
director J.J. Abrams.
The project is known by the code name Cloverfield, but that is not the real title, according to Paramount Pictures, the source of the trailer.
Hollywood-Elsewhere.com's Jeffrey Wells says the trailer is a clever ploy working just as the studio hoped.
"It's probably more enticing to not quite know what is that they're putting across," he says. "It's always better when you can arouse imaginations and get them wondering without making things too explicit. That's not the age and aesthetic of today. Everybody wants things right on the nose."
On the Web, at Fourth of July barbecues and at post-Transformers
screening dinners, people wanted to know more. Harry Knowles, the online king of movie previews at AintItCool.com, says Paramount's unique marketing campaign will "drive all the rest of us crazy. The worst thing about releasing a film without a title is my phone starts ringing at inappropriate times in the morning and night. When you have your phone number on your website, people think, 'Let's call him and ask him what we saw."
His theory, based on puzzle websites Paramount set up as clues, such as the fake prophet page EthanHaasWasRight.com, is that the film will involve the late H.P. Lovecraft's tales of monstrous ancient gods wreaking havoc on Earth.
Other online speculators theorize the film is the long-promised Voltron
movie (which would explain its placement at the beginning of the Transformers
film) about ancient robotic lions that form the titular giant to defend Earth from invasion. More stabs in the dark are that it's a new Godzilla
film, a big-screen takeoff on Abrams' Lost
TV series or an entirely original project.
Paramount has not posted the trailer online, and pirated versions are being quickly stamped out by the studio, claiming copyright violation.
All that Paramount sources will say is that they can't say anything. Yet.