February 18, 2011

That Dead Island trailer: some quick thoughts

(via Tor.com, which you should really start reading on the count of how informative it can be for aspiring speculative fiction writers)

Blame it on some weird quirk that has taken a hold (or, rather, a bite) of popular culture these days, but video games about zombies are a dime a dozen. And Dead Island is no exception. But DAMN, that trailer. BathosPathos-laden stuff like this is the reason why I became a Literature major.

Surely you can see the original trailer on YouTube (or on that Tor.com page I just linked to), but I already know what you're thinking, and fortunately so have the good people at IGN.

In case you can't follow, here's the trailer in question. DO NOT SCROLL DOWN UNTIL YOU HAVE SEEN IT IN FULL.

Dead Island hasn't actually come out yet, but presumably it's going to be much like your standard zombie shoot-em-up, barring maybe some cleverly-added nuances in gameplay and atmosphere and whatnot. I wouldn't know, I'm not really a gamer. But much like any other geek I am oddly fascinated by the hypothetical prospect of zombie apocalypses (apocalypsi?).

Remember what I just said about IGN having you covered? Ain't anachronic ordered storytelling grand?

Some things I noticed in this re-ordering that I didn't catch on my first viewing:
  • This is one fast zombie contagion. Apparently it has spread throughout the island and sent its victims' bodies to the point of you typical walking dead degradation, all in less than a day.
  • Right before the young girl hits the ground in the first few frames of the trailer, you can already sort of make out her zombie-like thrashing. I actually already suspected on my first viewing that the girl was already zombified by the time she fell, but as usual the reverse order of the trailer makes the whole thing more disorienting.
  • Right before reaching the door while running from the undead in the hotel hallway, the girl screamed for her Dad. Eeeep.

In true "cynical nerd" fashion, all I can say about this video game trailer concept in the end is that there's no such thing as bad publicity. Granted, I may never actually play this game, but the fact alone that it's gotten so much buzz purely on the count of its emotion-wrenching conceit should be worth mentioning.

What this game does do for me though is remind me of why zombies have such staying power to begin with: at best, it's a classic horror monster with that added touch of human angst thrown in. Much like how vampires had long been the metaphorical embodiments of carnal pleasures and werewolves (in addition to the timeless tale of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde) resonate with our own inborn fear of our own primal capacities, zombies make for a powerful and surprisingly versatile symbol for both our unease with human society at large and our own taboos toward mortality. I just hope I paraphrased that factoid from my college Gothic literature readings correctly.

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