Gamers and horror fans alike are just a few short weeks from The Last of Us’ premiere. Expectations couldn’t be any higher for this HBO series which is based on one of the most critically acclaimed and beloved video games in history. With that on the series’ undead conscience, the various trailers and images have promised the most accurate video game adaptation of all time. Now a newly released behind-the-scenes video sets up the dark tragedies at the heart of its story.
The featurette has stars Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey, along with co-creators Neil Druckmann and Craig Mazin, diving into what sets The Last of Us apart from other zombie tales in its sub-genre. On the horror side of things, the video dives into the fact that the show’s central virus is based in reality. The Cordyceps virus which turns people into infected and monstrous clickers in the games is actually a real-world virus that only affects ants. Naughty Dog, the original Last of Us development team, actually studied the effects the virus had on ants to give an accurate portrayal of how it would look if Cordyceps could infect humans. It would be a mind-altering fungus that would drive us all mad, to say the least, and just the fact that the Last of Us’ horrors are real in a sense is a very scary thought.
However, the Zombie-like infected are not the only horror viewers will face in this series. Like the games that inspired it, trauma is at the blood-soaked center of this story. Mainly the fact that Joel couldn’t save his daughter Sarah (Nico Parker) on “Outbreak Day” which Pascal describes as “the event that shapes the character for the rest of his life.” The main story takes place 20 years after the events of Sarah’s death and sees Joel as a “broken man” who buries himself in his work as a smuggler— that’s when Ellie comes into the picture. A 14-year-old girl that Joel is tasked with transporting to the Fireflies. This military faction is trying to find a cure for the virus by any means necessary and Ellie, unknown to Joel at first, is the key to humanity’s survival.
While this is pegged as the most game-accurate adaptation fans have ever seen, Mazin teased that there will be some “smart” changes to keep people well-versed in Ellie and Joel’s story on their toes. Many of the changes involve expanding the preexisting story. We get a hint of that with a shot of Bill (Nick Offerman) and Frank (Murray Bartlett), a new character only mentioned by name in the first game, embracing.
The Last of Us is one of the greatest stories ever told in any medium making it a daunting task to adapt — which is probably why Ramsey was advised not to play the game. However, they admitted they couldn’t resist watching gameplay clips, and who could blame them because both Last of Us games are such rich, tragic, and emotionally dark yet hopeful tales about processing grief. The series looks to be pulling none of the game’s impactful punches as Mazin calls it beautiful, terrifying, and enlightening while Druckmann said it does justice to the source material and then some.
The Last of Us is debuting on HBO Sunday, January 15. While we anxiously count down the days, you can view the new behind-the-scenes video down below.