A lone car slowly winds its way up a verdant country road somewhere in Europe. The sky is blue, the sun is shining, and the lush greenery projects nothing but an aura of peace and calm. The camera slowly pans back as it follows the car's progress around the twisting highway.

Thick foliage temporarily blocks your view of the car as it passes behind a tree, and the camera continues to follow its predicted path. A second later, the car fails to emerge from behind the tree as expected. Just as you're beginning to wonder what happened to the car...

... a putrid green zombie runs in front of the camera and screams!

Wow... that was certainly unexpected. This ad for a European energy drink is an example of a "screamer", a short video intended to focus your attention for the sole purpose of suddenly startling you.

Screamers are somewhat popular on the internet as a practical joke. They take several forms, all centered around the idea of getting you to focus your concentration and turn your speaker volume up for the unexpected startling image and scream at the end. Variations include:

  • A peaceful scene
  • A cute kitten
  • A game of skill requiring concentration
  • A "Where's Waldo?" style search
  • A "Spot the differences" comparison of two pictures
  • A dark, blurry photograph asking you to judge whether the item pictured is a "real" ghost, UFO, or other mysterious phenomenon.

In all cases, the viewer's attention is focused completely on the video, so that the screaming image has maximum startling impact. The "Where's Waldo?" game will not actually contain Waldo, and the "Spot the differences" images will actually be identical. After seeing a few of these, it becomes rather easy to recognize one long before the screaming image is actually revealed.

As for the energy drink ad, it's for a German product called K-Fee. K-Fee's web site has a number of similar ads available for download, all following the screamer theme as part of its marketing campaign. The screamers are supposed to give you a similar adrenaline rush to drinking their product. All the other versions of the video I have been able to find lately (e.g. on YouTube) have replaced the product shot at the end with the text "Now go change your shorts and get back to work!", confident in the idea that is has scared the proverbial crap out of you.