Ready or not, "The Last Of Us" is coming with a 100% guarantee to yank on your heartstrings. Whether or not you've played through the original Naughty Dog game or are seeing Joel and Ellie's story play out for the very first time, the upcoming HBO series is bound to break (and mend) your heart with the story of two strangers uniting on a dangerous trip across an America laid to waste by a global infection.

Obviously, that premise carries a lot of extra weight that wasn't nearly as present when the game first debuted in 2013. Since then, we've lived through a pandemic of our own (and plenty of pandemic-processing art) that will probably make many elements of "The Last Of Us" feel eerily familiar. For Craig Mazin, who showruns and co-created the series with Neil Druckmann, that's part of what makes the story so frightening. Well, that and the other element of horror shambling across our screens. You see, instead of a sickness that quietly decimates society, "The Last Of Us" is about a fungus that takes over bodies, turning people into zombie-like creatures hellbent on spreading the Cordyceps brain infection. Doesn't that just sound like the perfect backdrop for a cross-country road trip?

At an interview roundtable attended by /Film's Ben Pearson, series co-creator Craig Mazin revealed what he finds to be the scariest element of this fungus-infested world. Hint — it has a little something to do with the 'zombies.' "These are not zombies crawling out of graves," Mazin pointed out. "There is no magic. There's no spirits and spooks. It's science. And to me, nothing is scarier than a scientist being scared. That's when I get scared."

Mazin Is Right, We Should All Be Terrified

As the showrunner points out, this isn't a zombie apocalypse scenario rooted in impossibility. It's a pandemic story about a health crisis that couldn't be contained and eventually, went on to upend society. Twenty years after the infection first emerged, Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie (Bella Ramsey) are navigating a world where a mindless fungus zombie could be just around the corner, waiting to infect them. And once Cordyceps takes root, there's no turning back. While Ellie happens to be a singular exception to the rules of infection, everyone else left in the world is fair game.

All it takes is a single mistake or a breath full of fungal spores. Just like that, the fungus grows while its host is still alive, shutting off brain function and taking over the body. In some ways, "zombie" isn't even a fitting description for the infected folks shambling (and sometimes sprinting!) through this story: sure, they are mindlessly infected humans who can spread their virus via bites and scratches, but they aren't actually undead. And instead of consuming brains, this fungus is overtaking them.

Making things even more chilling, the inspiration for the infection is based on a real-life fungus. Druckmann and his fellow Naughty Dog developers have previously revealed that they were inspired by an episode of the BBC documentary "Planet Earth," which featured an infected ant being killed by a Cordyceps fungus. So they asked a simple question — what if that fungus could attach itself to a human? And thus we have the infected horde who have laid waste to society in "The Last of Us." Honestly, is there anything scarier than nature itself?

"The Last of Us" premieres on HBO and HBO Max on January 15, 2023.

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The post The Aspect of HBO's The Last of Us That Truly Scares Showrunner Craig Mazin appeared first on /Film.