“Five Nights at Freddy’s” is finally here.
And the daunting task of scaring the pants off of people who have never heard of the property – and appealing to die-hard fans who have played every game – fell to director Emma Tammi, who had worked with Blumhouse on two movies in their “Into the Dark” Hulu series.
The movie stars Josh Hutcherson as Mike, a man who is down on his luck and caring for his young sister Abby (Piper Rubio). Soon he takes a job as a security guard for an abandoned pizzeria called Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza, which has a sinister past and a small army of incredibly unsettling animatronic characters. (The characters were brought to life in the film thanks to the geniuses at Jim Henson’s Creature Shop.) Soon enough Mike is looking into the mysteries of the past while trying to save his own skin in the present.
TheWrap spoke to Tammi about what it was like succeeding where other filmmakers had failed in terms of bringing “Five Nights at Freddy’s” to life (it has been in development for the better part of a decade), what it was like working with the original game creator Scott Cawthon and walking the fine line between a PG-13 rated movie and more adult R-rated material.
Over the years there had been many attempts at a “Five Nights at Freddy’s” movie. Did you look at any of those earlier versions? And what was the secret sauce that got yours across the finish line?
I was not necessarily familiar with the ins and outs of the development that happened prior to coming on board, but there was an existing script that I was able to read and speak to Scott about. And he had a really specific blueprint of what he wanted to incorporate in this movie, both in terms of the lore of the franchise and also the specific characters that he wanted to build out in this movie. With that blueprint, I was really able to start digging in to doing the work that I needed to do to make it come to life.
What were some of those elements that you felt really needed to be in the movie?
Scott really felt like the core of the story was Mike’s journey, of course. Also his relationship with Abby and that family drama and that dynamic between the two of them really hit a strong chord for me. I really also felt like that that was the heartbeat of this film. In addition to that, of course, doing a genre adaptation of this world felt like such an exciting opportunity, and “Freddy’s” universe visually felt very nostalgic to me and was really recalling a lot of memories of my childhood. It felt so rich and tactile, and atmospheric and creepy, and all the things that I love in a horror film. But it also had this incredible quirkiness and specificity of the animatronic characters, and that in and of itself is a whole other cast. I just felt like there were all these really, really incredible elements that were exciting to weave together to make this film.
What was it like working with Scott? With “The Last of Us” and “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” you’re seeing the original creators get involved in the adaptation.
Yeah, I mean, you mentioned “The Last of Us.” That’s one of my favorite shows of this past year, and I just feel like the adaptations that can benefit from some sort of guidance and/or collaboration with the creators are really uniquely poised to resonate with the fan base. But specifically with “Freddy’s,” I thought that that was essential. Scott has an encyclopedic knowledge of the lore and of course all the storylines that make up the games and the books, but also a really encyclopedic knowledge of the fan base. And he really keeps his pulse on the conversations that are happening around everything that comes out “Five Nights at Freddy’s” related. That expertise felt like something we really needed to be aware of and listen to as we were moving forward with a feature adaptation of the game.
The movie is PG-13 but there are some pretty shocking things that happen. How do you find that balance? There was a little kid in my screening last night who was going wild, so he loved it.
I was wondering who were viewing, if it was going to be all adults or if there’d be some kids sprinkled in there, so that’s amazing. Yeah, I mean, in terms of the PG-13 rating, there’s so many dark elements to the “Freddy’s” lore, and in this movie also, there’s a handful of kills, and horror beats that are inherently violent. In terms of making sure that it was PG-13 friendly and going to be able to include the younger audience as well, that was really execution dependent. We were just trying to find creative ways to show violence in a non-graphic way or to allude to storylines that are incredibly dark and sinister but not pushing the envelope to bump the movie into an R-rated film.
What was it like working with the team at Jim Henson’s Creature Shop on the animatronic characters?
It was just one of the biggest dreams come true of all time. I would’ve jumped at the opportunity to do anything with them. To specifically be able to bring the “Five Nights at Freddy’s” characters to life was on a whole other level of dreams coming true, and I think for them as well. Jim Henson’s work has such a legacy and is so memorable, but “Five Nights at Freddy’s” also already has its own legacy and is so memorable. So I mean, they were equally excited to have the opportunity to expand that world and bring it to life in a whole new way. And it was an incredible synergy.
It feels like such a fun callback too, because they were at the height of their powers in the ’80s as well.
Totally. Yes, thank you for saying that. I totally agree. I think there’s a nostalgia to not just the seal of this film, but also how we approach the making of it and really wanting to keep things as practical as possible.
Mary Stuart Masterson is so great in this movie. How did you land on her?
I mean, I’ve been the biggest fan of Mary Stuart Masterson for decades, and I was the number one most excited to see her back in a fun new role for a character that I hadn’t quite seen her ever play. And then just on a personal level, the opportunity to work with her was such a coup. She’s so talented and, I think, so iconic.
“Five Nights at Freddy’s” is in theaters and streaming on Peacock Friday, Oct. 27.