It’s hard to pull off convincing “viral” marketing in 2016: We’re all too internet savvy, preferring cute to trickery. That’s why, in the marketing for Batman v Superman a fake article on Lex Luthor in Fortune magazine didn’t break the internet, but an adorable video of Henry Cavill talking to kids with animals in the background is actually going viral.
Next month, before Batman and Superman hug it out, 10 Cloverfield Lane will release in theaters over a month after its surprise debut trailer aired. The original Cloverfield from 2008 was steeped in mystery — all in the name of hype — and its spiritual sequel is no different. A comprehensive marketing campaign with ARG (augmented reality games) tactics have hooked the conspiracy-inclined to participate in doing half the studio’s advertising for them. I’m being a buzzkill, but that’s because I learned my lesson the first time.
Let’s unpack ’em.
A Reddit user found a legit survival kit in Louisiana.
I’m getting the biggest, coolest discovery out of the way: The filmmakers (or maybe the marketing team) left a survival kit in a field in Louisiana about 50 miles from the film’s shooting location in New Orleans. Reddit user MugensKeeper took coordinates discovered in the film’s trailer attached to Deadpool and found the kit buried underneath an empty Swamp Pop bottle, a real brand of soda seen in the film.
Taking the WAV files from the two USB drives included in the kit, MugensKeeper discovered they are recordings of a failed satellite launch.
That’s a biggie, because …
John Goodman’s character was a troubled government employee.
John Goodman plays Howard Stambler, a former top-ranking government employee — now a paranoid doomsday prepper — who was threatened with jail time for knowing too much (which I pretty much guessed right, BTW) and bears the pseudonym “RadioMan 70” in encrypted communications. (How fans connected that, you’ll find out in a little bit.)
But what did Howard/RadioMan 70 know? A discovery through the viral website FunAndPrettyThings.com reveals his involvement in a failed satellite experiment.
FunAndPrettyThings.com is a blog made by Howard’s daughter, who is probably, and most likely, dead.
Lending speculation to Howard’s attachment to Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is a photo and Tumblr-like blog most likely run by Howard’s daughter, Megan. For worthy Cloverfield speculators, a picture of the Eiffel Tower is on the front page.
The only clickable item is the screen cap from Pretty in Pink, with Molly Ringwald in front of an old computer monitor. Click on it and a window prompt says, “A passphrase is requested by RadioMan70.com.” The internet has already solved it: Enter “Do you want to talk?” and you’ll find a message left by RadioMan70.
Below is a transcript of RadioMan70’s message — complete with typos that characterize a paranoid doomsday prepper — in which he talks about a mission tracking Soviet satellites that turn out to be “much, much bigger.”
“NO ANSWER YET, MEGAN? I UNDERSTAND. YOU’VE BEEN LISTENING TO YOUR MOTHER. SHE’S BEEN POISONING YOU AGAINST ME, RIGHT? THERE ARE A LOT OF THINGS YOU DON’T KNOW. SO LET ME TELL YOU SOME OF THEM AND MAYBE YOULL SEE I KNOW WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT.
“A WIFE SHOULD BELIEVE HER HUSBAND, NOT UNDERCUT HIM. BUT NO MATTER HOW MUCH I TRIED TO SHARE THE TRUTH WITH HER, YOUR MOTHER NEVER TOOK ME SERIOUSLY. YOU’RE OLD ENOUGH NOW TO KNOW THE TRUTH. I WAS WORKING WITH VERY SECRET AND HIGHLY CLASSIFIED SPY SATELLITES. I HAD CLEARANCE. AND I SAW THINGS. THINGS YOU WOULDN’T BELIEVE. THINGS FEW PEOPLE WOULD BELIEVE.
“THERE WAS THIS MISSION CALLED SEASAT. WE WERE SUPPOSED TO BE TRACKING SOVIET SPY SATELLITES BUT WHAT WE FOUND UP THERE WAS MUCH MUCH BIGGER. SO THEY CANCELLED THE PROJETC AND MADE UP A STORY TO EXPLAIN WHY. BUT ONE GUY I SERVED WITH, HE UNDERSTOOD THE IMPORTANCE OF WHAT WE WERE SEEING. HE WAS KIND OF A MENTOR FOR ME AND THE FEW OTHERS WHO DIDN’T WANT TO LET IT GO. SO WE BEGAN COMPILING ALL OF THIS EVIDENCE. AND ONCE WE STARTED LOOKING FOR IT, WE SAW THE SIGNS EVERYWHERE. WE ASSEMBLD SO MUCH EVIDENCE AND TRIED TO GET THE COMMANDERS TO LISTEN. BUT THEY DIDN’T WANT TO HEAR ANY OF IT. THEY SHUT US DOWN. AND THEY ACCUSED MY MENTOR OF SPYING FOR THE SOVIETS. THEY SENT HIM TO JAIL FOR 365 YEARS AND THEY MADE IT CLEAR THAT THEY WOULDNOT HESITATE TO DO THE SAME TO ME IF I DIDN’T STOP ASKIGN QUESTIONS THEY DIDN’T WANT TO ANSWER. I LEFT THE NAVY NOT TOO LONG AFTER THAT. BUT I NEVER STOPPED LOOKING.
“I KNOW LITTLE GIRLS PROBABLY CARE MORE ABOUT HORSEBACK RIDING THAN FOLLOWING THE NEWS. SO I’M GUESSING YOU DIDN’T SEE THEY LAUNCHED A NEW SPY SATELLITE INTO ORBIT A FEW DAYS AGO:
“ONE THING MY SEASAT EXPERIENCE TAUGHT ME WAS HOW TO RECOGNIZE A COVER STORY. THEY’VE USED A CLASSIC ONE HERE. VAGUE MENTIONS OF “NATIONAL SECURITY” AND “CLASSIFIED MISSION DETAILS”? I NEED YOU TO BELIEVE ME WHEN I TELL YOU THAT WHEN A NEW SATELLITE LIKE THAT GETS LAUNCHED, IT’S BECAUSE THEY KNOW SOMETHING. SOMETHING THAT THEY NEED THEIR EYES ON. SOMETHING THAT THEY DON’T WANT ANYONE ELSE TO KNOW ABOUT. AND IF THE TOP BRASS IS FINALLY READY TO DEAL WITH IT, THAT MEANS THERE’S NOT MUCH TIME LEFT FOR US.
“IF YOU WERE HERE, I COULD SHOW YOU MORE. WHEN ARE YOU COMING?
Embedded within FunAndPrettyThings.com is a one-sided conversation with RadioMan70 advising Megan on survival tactics. There’s instructions and rambling about a bunker and how to survive nuclear or biological attacks.
Fans across Reddit are believing Michelle — who winds up in Howard’s care after an accident and, thus, is the main plot of 10 Cloverfield Lane — is kept due to her resemblance or something reminding of Howard of Megan. Others are proposing alternate theories, but this is the most popular.
Wait, how did fans connect RadioMan70 to Howard Stambler?
This is where I personally believe 10 Cloverfield Lane is more of a solid sequel to the original Cloverfield than originally described.
The fictional Japanese drilling company Tagruato (which has been spotted as an Easter egg in other J.J. Abrams films like Star Trek) is an investor in Slusho!, a candy soft drink that had a major presence in the original 2008 movie’s marketing. Many fans, to this day, believe for sure that Slusho!’s toxic waste birthed the monster. In Cloverfield, Rob was on his way to Japan to work for Slusho! until the monster attacked.
Below is a fake news report that was part of the original Cloverfield marketing involving a local news station investigating a toxic spill in the ocean from Tagruato and the pro-environmental group TIDO.
According to Slashfilm, the Tagruato staff which has been inactive for eight years (since the release of Cloverfield), was reactivated when participants in the original ARG were sent a new email.
“Due to new security protocols, this account is no longer active. All correspondence is monitored and will be responded to appropriately.
“Thank you for your interest.
“Sincerely, Vanessa Gwon
“Director of Public Relations Employee of the Month: 2016 January”
Yeah, it’s that January 2016 thing that got fans buzzing. Fans kept poking around the website to discover a page for “Employees of the Month” for February 2016. Scroll down and you’ll find John Goodman as Howard, in a RadioMan70 t-shirt.
Howard built a survival simulator for Megan.
In a throwback to the text-based DOS games, 10 Cloverfield Lane created a survival mini-game where you have to ration supplies, food, and water for up to four people, all of whom can die in a variety of ways. Think of it like a deadlier Oregon Trail, with an online leaderboard that fans have been competing to outrank each other like an old-school arcade.
In-story, the game is to prep Megan for survival in a bunker, but it’s really just become a fun game to occupy fans until the movie hits theaters. Never forget, guys: This is just a movie. You can play it here!
10 Cloverfield Lane releases on March 11.