The Five Nights at Freddy's movie will come out on October 27. Production and filming have wrapped and post-production is happening now. The movie has been in development for nearly a decade, to the extent that parodies have entered the mainstream. Films have paid homage to, or blatantly ripped off, the idea of a haunted amusement park with furry mascots.
Fans have waited for eight years since the official film announcement. So far we have not received any clips or proper trailers, though the company has released screenshots, behind-the-scenes footage, and cast lists. But will Five Nights at Freddy's be worth the wait?
Franchise creator Scott Cawthon is the movie’s screenwriter and producer, and that is the rub: I don't trust him as a writer or a person. His storytelling skills have failed to stick the landing as the Freddy Fazbear franchise grows. Cawthon has shown some unpleasant politics in real life that make it hard to purchase his fiction.
Ethical and personal issues I have with him aside, Cawthon isn't the only contributor to the film. The other partner has a long history of perfecting art and story execution. Can we trust Jim Henson's Creature Shop to deliver the scares and the story, and should we?
Did You Survive Five Nights With Chica, Bonnie, And Freddy?
Five Nights at Freddy's terrified fans around the world with jumpscares, flashing images, and eerie grunts in the dark. In the original game, a security guard has to keep sentient animatronics out of their office using electronic doors and lights with a finite amount of power. All doors open if the power goes off, leaving you to the mercy of pizzeria mascot Freddy Fazbear. Other animatronics will scream in your face, before stuffing your body into a furry iron maiden.
The first three titles in the series followed this formula: survive the night with limited electricity while finding hidden lore. It played on the primal fear of being trapped within a tight space, with monsters hunting you. Later features would try to expand on worldbuilding and gameplay. "Try" is the keyword here.
FNAF went viral because simple visuals and gameplay became terrifying. People shrieked when Chica, Bonnie, or Foxy screamed at them. Younger players clicked the lights while begging their power to not reach zero percent. Gamers like Markiplier and Dawko earned a reputation for courage, stubbornness, or determination when tackling these difficult challenges.
Failure To Worldbuild
When the fourth game arrived in 2015, it showed Scott's trollish side. The story broke the formula, focusing on a child avoiding monsters haunting his bedroom rather than an adult taking the graveyard shift in a pizzeria. While cutscenes hinted that the game would fill in the backstory from the previous three games, the fourth game included details that were direct contradictions of the timeline from the prior three games.
For example, the Bite of '87 is one of the biggest mysteries mentioned in game one. As talking tutorial Phone Guy narrates, an animatronic bit off a person's frontal lobe, and the person survived. While it seems that game four shows what happened, an Easter egg reveals that the game’s events happened in 1983 and not 1987. Ergo, two different accidents happened in this time period, as opposed to one. If this is the case, then why do we only hear of one bite in game one, and why are the two accidents lacking differentiation?
It also leads to another important question: how many children or adults suffered serious injuries that the corporation covered up? We know that if a security guard dies on the job, corporate hides the body and cleans up all the bodily fluids. Children dying, however, are not ignored within the game: Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza canonically closes in game one owing to its association with child murder. Cawthon contradicts himself with this narrative.
To add insult to injury, Scott claimed the details in the game provided answers that fans sought about the lore. Game four ends with a locked box, with the caption, "Perhaps some things are best left forgotten, for now." The box supposedly contains the lore's full details, but Cawthon has not opened it. Fans "failed" to solve the game according to Cawthon, so he would not unlock those secrets. It felt childish and mean to those that stuck with the franchise for that long. We received poor storytelling, and Cawthon punished the player for his narrative mistakes.
I stopped following the franchise after watching footage of Sister Location, the fifth game. The narration and lore for Sister Location were very complicated, and after the disappointment of game four, I didn't want to invest the time. The game series went from simple scares and ghost stories to pure anachronisms and dissatisfying conclusions.
Investing time in the mysteries became more of a chore than a labor of love. The snark about players not solving the puzzle didn't help; I feel Scott could have done better with his fans and plots. As a result, I have chosen not to play or view footage of the later games.
Where Does The Money Go?
If Cawthon had simply undermined his franchise with poor storytelling, I might shrug and hope that the director and editor could do some magic. Another sinister side to Cawthon exists, however, in addition to his storytelling. I cannot condone it.
Scott Cawthon revealed that after his success with the games, he donated some of that revenue and earnings to Republican candidates. He was unapologetic about this, despite the hurt that it caused LGBTQ fans.
I had decided I would no longer give this franchise any of my time or money so that it would not be redirected to causes I abhor. Does covering the movie enable Cawthon’s financial support for fascism?
What About Jim Henson Productions?
Of course, a movie doesn't just have one player, as multiple teams and experts work on the production. Jim Henson's Creature Shop is contributing the visual effects, building Freddy, Bonnie, Chica, and the other animatronics from scratch.
Jim Henson Productions has one priority: focusing on art and craftsmanship. No matter what they work on, whether not the story is weak or the executive meddling is there, they always deliver on the art. The Creature Shop ensures that each creation will remain in our memories and psyche.
We have seen the Creature Shop work on similar projects before. They showed off chilling set designs and puppetry for the Candle Cove adaptation in Channel Zero, a Syfy series that adapted various creepypasta stories. While people critiqued the adaptation for adding excessive details, many reviewers agreed that the spinoff short of Candle Cove itself nailed the original tale's eerie tones.
The Creature Shop has also worked on projects beyond straightforward horror. Jim Henson Productions won many hearts with the cult classic Labyrinth, and performed excellent work with special effects and magic for MirrorMask, a 2005 movie collaboration between Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean.
In short, you could not find a better production company to bring FNAF’s bears, chickens, and foxes to life. No matter how terrible or great the movie will be, the animatronics will look legitimately scary, based on the teaser images of Freddy Fazbear.
Who Will Have The Most Creative Control Over The Film?
It’s hard to say how much power Scott will wield throughout the movie's final phases of development. Cawthon has strongly implied he will maintain a lot of creative control, as writer and producer, but I do wish the Creature Shop had some input. Candle Cove received negative reviews because of the story, despite having a stellar cast and some unique visuals.
The Five Nights at Freddy's film can go the same way unless it has a stellar editor and director. Emma Tammi has signed onto the film as the director, with three films under her belt. One of them, The Wind (2018), has received middling reviews owing to its slow burn structure. Her most recent directing credit is two episodes of the horror anthology series Into the Dark (2021), but her other two films were documentaries and not horror fare. The chances of Tammi showing off her talent would depend on the amount of creative control she retains over the final vision, and given Cawthon's implications, I would expect some struggles there.
Will Five Nights at Freddy's be worth the wait? If I were only thinking about the script, I would say no. Even if the film focuses entirely on the first three games, Cawthon's evolution as a writer and a person makes me believe he will likely sabotage his own story. But when I think about the talent of the Creature Shop, I have utter faith in their ability to build animatronics that can carry a story on their own. Until the fans of the original FNAF see the trailers for the movie, Jim Henson can give us peace of mind that theirs is one part of the movie that will shine. In the meantime, animatronics wait for the silver screen, and their time to terrify us. I hope that if nothing else, more companies will use the Creature Shop for better stories and adaptations.
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