Axis Animation discusses careful choices made when building a three-minute zombie video that rocked the industry

Dead Island trailer creators ‘wanted to shock, not offend’

The director of the show-stopping Dead Island trailer believes he has been “fairly restrained and grown-up” in handling the video’s content.

“I think we have been fairly restrained and grown up about it personally,” said Axis Animation co-founder Stuart Aitken, whose company put the GC movie together.

“The zombie genre is about gore and death and a primal fear of irrational violence so there’s no point trying to dodge those things at all.”

Earlier in the month, Glasgow-based animation experts Axis sent shockwaves across the entertainment industries with its three-minute trailer of the upcoming survival-horror game. The official video has been viewed nearly three million times on YouTube, though has not been spared criticism for its depiction of an undead child.

Yet in an interview with Develop, Aitken talks though the meticulous nature of creating the Dead Island trailer, and explains steps put in place to ensure the content didn’t, in his eyes, go too far.

“If you watch carefully almost all the really graphic bits of violence actually happen to the zombies, not the family. The violence that happens to the family is implied or is treated less graphically for the most part and that was quite deliberate,” he said.

“We feel the fear of the family, their sense of hopelessness under the onslaught, their lack of ability to save one another despite trying, and that is more dramatically interesting than seeing them actually being ripped to shreds or something.”

He added: “Enjoying a bit of gore is part of the whole zombie appeal and we have that too. I think a zombie movie that doesn’t try and shock just a little bit is kind of toothless.”

In a new interview with Develop, Aitken explains that the first draft of the trailer had raised the intensity even higher, before discussions with the game’s publisher, Deep Silver, brough about revisions.

“I came up with a script that featured a mother who had been ‘turned’ and a father who discovers her within the more public areas of the hotel. The daughter was in there at that point as well in a, perhaps, even more shocking manner than the final version,” he said.

The final version of the trailer depicts the daughter as a zombie who is apparently killed from being thrown out of the window. Yet the direction of the video, and specifically the use of reversed-slow-motion, removes the emphasis on the fall.

“The slow-motion-in-reverse thing came out of a discussion about how to soften some of the violence a bit – the initial idea for that came from Deep Silver and we discussed making it more ‘balletic’, taking some of the aggressiveness out of it,” Aitken said.

“I really liked that idea and I think we all felt that this would give the trailer a different voice from anything else out there. On the other hand I also felt that the whole film playing out like that would maybe lack some needed punch, so I suggested that we inter-cut a separate thread in real-time, tracking the initial attack on the daughter to provide contrast and add drama.

“On the subject of the daughter character specifically, we were aware that there was an impact about that choice for sure, but I think that choice fitted the narrative we wanted to tell and was appropriate in that sense.

“As the audience you feel that fear much more strongly through the eyes of a child. Some people will see that as being ‘manipulative’ which is fair enough. It draws you in, makes you care.”

More insight on the trailer’s creation can be found here

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