Contrary to popular belief, the maker behind the Dead Island trailer was not developer Techland, but animation production house Axis Animation. Co-founder and director Stuart Aitken spoke in an interview with Develop, explaining the steps and reasons behind every scene in the somewhat controversial trailer.
Aitken points out that the team had been "fairly restrained" when making the trailer: "I think we have been fairly restrained and grown up about it personally," he said. "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."
The trailer has since topped over three million views and tweets. It has also been on the receiving end of some critics who are concerned about the shock value it employs. However, Aitken explains that Axis Animation had actually taken many steps so as to not cross over the moral line.
"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 also tells Develop that the initial draft was a lot more intense, and that personally, "a zombie movie that doesn't try and shock just a little bit is kind of toothless." Moreover, Axis and Dead Island publisher Deep Silver were in discussions when making the trailer, leading to a number of revisions and cuts in the final edit. As a result, the final trailer depicts the daughter as a zombie while specifically using reverse-slow-motion and direction in order to take the emphasis off the fall and violence on the family.
"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 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.
"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," Aitken explained. "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."