EXCLUSIVE: Zombie video game Dead Island is getting reanimated for the screen by Occupant Entertainment and publisher Deep Silver. The companies have pacted to package, produce, and finance a new film based on the bestselling vidgame played from the perspective of survivors fending off the undead on an island paradise.
Dead Island sold over 8 million units worldwide after its initial release, drawing huge viral buzz from a memorable teaser trailer depicting one family’s dream vacation gone horribly wrong, Memento-style. That video notched a whopping 1 million YouTube views in a day, won the Golden Lion in Cannes at the International Festival of Creativity, and caught Hollywood’s attention. (It even inspired its own live-action recreation.)
Lionsgate bought the rights in 2011 but the project stalled when production head Alli Shearmur left the studio the following year in the Summit exec shake-up. When rights reverted back to the publisher, the company sealed a new deal with LA-based Occupant, the indie production and financing shingle that launched with 2006 genre slasher All The Boys Love Mandy Lane — one of the original bidders on the property.
Plenty of high-profile video game properties have been waylaid on the road to development, but the Dead Island delay means filmmakers now have more material to mine. A tongue-in-cheek video game sequel set in Venice Beach is heading to shelves next spring and its own teaser has racked up 10M views since debuting in June at E3. Occupant and Deep Silver are hunting for a director with an innovative take based on either the first game or its sequel, or something in between. (Compare the first game’s somber teaser with its sequel below.) They’re fast-tracking the project for an early 2015 start and have their sights set on launching the title at Berlin or Cannes.
“Deep Silver has created a highly successful game franchise based on very cinematic, widely viewed and well received trailers, which provide a great template for launching a film franchise with a distinctive and commercial take on the zombie apocalypse,” said Occupant partners Joe Neurauter and Felipe Marino. “We want to find the right filmmaker and present somewhat of an open canvas, to make something distinct and original that also appeals to and expands the core audience.” Marino and Kate Sharp will oversee for Occupant.
“The Dead Island universe offers a rich and unique setting that can expand beyond the pure gaming experience,” said Koch Media CEO Dr. Klemens Kundratitz. “We are very much looking forward to seeing Dead Island open up to new audiences and showing off the fun everybody at Deep Silver has with this brand.”
Occupant, meanwhile, is currently in production on horror thriller The Woods from director Corin Hardy, and is in post on the Sophie Barthes-helmed Madame Bovary starring Mia Wasikowska, Paul Giamatti, Rhys Ifans and Ezra Miller. The company is also in production on the second season of its Emmy-nominated Hulu original series Behind The Mask. Deep Silver recently bought first-person shooter vidgame franchise Homefront; its parent company Koch Media is a leading producer of digital entertainment and also operates a film distribution arm in Germany, the UK, and Italy. Check out the Dead Island and Dead Island 2 vidgame teasers below: