Lights, Camera, Acshushtion

With more films using secretive pseudonyms in their production stage, Jamie Gomersall investigates how this new trope can benefit both movie producers and fan hype.

Jamie Gomersall
5th December 2016

The production team behind this year’s horror reboot, Blair Witch, pulled off an impressive feat: keeping the film secret from the public. Filmed under the fake title, The Woods, it wasn’t until a screening at San Diego Comic-Con that the true title was revealed.

This tactic of keeping the film’s true identity under wraps was, according to the film’s writer, Simon Barrett, a way of avoiding negative press. Producers were apparently concerned that news of a reboot of 1999’s The Blair Witch Project would incite a negative reaction among fans of the original. Unfortunately, keeping the film a secret was ultimately futile. The film was not only a box office disappointment, but also a critical failure.

This tactic of keeping films a secret adds to the excitement when they’re finally revealed

More successful was 10 Cloverfield Lane, an incredibly suspenseful film about a young woman held in an underground bunker, assured by her captor that he is protecting her from an earth-shattering cataclysm. The tension of the film revolves around whether or not her captor is telling the truth, an ambiguity only resolved in the film’s final sequence. It is surprising then that this film, so focused on human drama, acts as a (sort-of) sequel to 2008’s Cloverfield, a found-footage sci-fi disaster movie. It made all the more sense when I discovered that the film wasn’t intended to serve as a sequel at all. Originally titled The Cellar, the screenplay was unconnected to Cloverfield until it was acquired by J.J Abrams’ company, Bad Robot Productions. This unexpected sequel was a surprise success, and a critical hit. Hopefully Abrams and co. can replicate the same success with the upcoming mysteriously-titled God Particle.

In fact, many of Hollywood’s most celebrated movies were produced under different titles. Return of the Jedi was titled Blue Harvest throughout its production, so as to avoid unwanted attention from fans and film journalists, while Christopher Nolan used The Intimidation Game to mask the true title of his film, Batman Begins.

Many of Hollywood’s most celebrated movies were produced under different titles

This tactic of keeping films a secret adds to the excitement when they’re finally revealed, a refreshing change from methods used by companies such as Disney. Though I very much enjoyed the slick and nostalgic The Force Awakens, it concerns me that the studio is now planning to release a new Star Wars film every year for as long as it possibly can. You can’t blame Disney for cashing in on a devout fan base, but I can’t help but feel cynical that Disney is content to churn out Star Wars films, despite an inevitable decline in quality.

The same can be said for the Marvel movies. Audiences are aware of the next eight instalments in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, taking us from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 next May, to the beginning of 2019. Likewise, Warner Bros revealed that there are four upcoming sequels to J.K Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts franchise, and James Cameron is underway in creating four sequels to Avatar. Surely these films are less special, and less of an event, when we know they’re just going to keep on coming.

As an audience member, I understand the desire to be in-the-know about upcoming films, but it dismays me that there are so few surprises these days. Although I hope to see a few unexpected entries in the box office top ten of 2017, I expect we’ll see yet another slew of predictable and uninspired action movies.

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