The 10 Best Commercials of 2011

The year's most impeccable craft and storytelling in advertising

Best of 2011, Lists

About the Author

Tim Nudd is creative editor at Adweek.

DEEP SILVER • Dead Island Trailer7

Agency: Deep Silver Planegg, Munich, Germany • Director: Stuart Aitken, Axis Animation • Editing: Stuart Aitken (Axis), Anton Borkel (Deep Silver) • Effects: Axis Animation

Ghastly and heartbreaking, this trailer by Scotland's Axis Animation for the zombie video game Dead Island built up an astonishing emotional intensity with a simple visual trick—running the footage backwards. We open on a slow pullback from a young girl lying dead in the grass. Suddenly, she is yanked skyward, falling in reverse toward a shattered window—and crashing back into a hotel room scene of unspeakable horror. Blood is flying; rotting creatures are everywhere. A mournful piano plays, intercut with desperate gasps and sounds of running. Amid the terrifying confusion, we begin to understand that the girl and her parents have been attacked by zombies while on vacation. The action continues in reverse to the moment of the attack, when the father still has time to save his little girl from the fate we've already witnessed. Reverse footage has been used in ads before. But paired with horror, it's a revelation. The visual disorientation and unnatural body movements—a ballet of the damned—provoke a sense of dread that feels wholly new, even for such a well-worn genre. And the girl's resurrection, which we know is an illusion, perfectly mirrors the false hope in the early rattlings of a waking zombie. Utterly harrowing yet undeniably beautiful—the year's best gaming spot.

Warning: Spot is graphic and may be disturbing to some viewers.
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