A new commercial for Universal Studios’ Halloween Horror Nights is meant to spur viewers to run for their lives…and straight into the amusement park. A Common Thread produced the spot for Los Angeles agency David & Goliath, delivering a chilling piece of filmmaking that plays like a 30-second horror flick.
In Gates, four teens are walking along a foggy street in the dead of night when they spot another teen running at breakneck speed, pursued by a horde of crazed and ravenous zombies. Screaming, they bolt and seek safety behind a pair of towering iron gates. However, the moment they slam the gates shut and turn around, they find themselves confronted by another blood-thirsty mob of horrific creatures —they’ve locked themselves inside Universal Studios.
A Common Thread and director Clay Staub invested the spot with all the trappings of a teen slasher movie: kinetic cinematography, ghoulish make-up, creepy locations and fevered performances. “Clay pulled from his background as a 2nd Unit Director on Dawn of the Dead, 300 and The Thing,” explains A Common Thread executive producer J.P. McMahon. “He knows how to manage zombies and monsters. He worked with them intensely on how to run, crawl and growl—it’s got a hellish vibe.”
To lens the spot, A Common Thread tapped director of photography Gonzalo Amat, whose credits include The Devil Inside. His footage is both beautiful and haunting.
One of the challenges of the production, notes McMahon, was to squeeze the classic horror movie narrative arc into a half-minute format. “The story starts off in slow motion but ramps up quickly and takes viewers on a high-speed thrill ride to the end,” he says. “The goal was to make it as scary as hell.”