Five Nights at Freddy’s Director on the Appeal of Murderous Animatronics

Eric Goldman
Movies Games
Movies Games

Though just under a decade old, Five Nights at Freddy’s quickly became a sensation once it arrived, leading to multiple sequels and plenty of merch for the horror video game. That being the case, there was talk of a movie not long after the game’s debuted, with several writers and directors involved at various points. Now, the Five Nights at Freddy’s movie has arrived, produced by ??Jason Blum / Blumhouse and directed by Emma Tammi (2018’蝉 The Wind), with Universal debuting the film in both theaters and on Peacock this month.

Five Nights at Freddy’s is, from afar, an amusingly offbeat film mixing some very different tones. On one hand, you have the story of a young man, Mike Schmidt (Josh Hutcherson) trying to raise his young sister, Abby (Piper Rubio), on his own, haunted by a family tragedy in the past. On the other hand, this is a movie in which Mike’s new job as a security guard at a closed down theme restaurant, Freddy Fazbear’s, leads to him discovering the old animatronic characters there are very much alive – and homicidal. And that’s before we even delve into the dark truth behind why these animatronics are alive.

Emma Tammi told Fandom she happily embraced this wild mix of elements, remarking, “So many of my favorite movies growing up had that unique blend of darkness, terror, fun, wonderment and humor. And I think we were really lucky to embrace all of those elements coming out of the franchise and bring those to life in a new way with the movie.”

THEY’RE ALIVE!

So who do you turn to when you need large animatronic creatures to come to life? Why Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, of course! Founded by the late, truly great Muppet creator, the Creature Shop has contributed to many movies outside of the Muppets franchise, including Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,?Harry Potter and Star Wars films, but Five Nights at Freddy’s is likely darker material than one might expect from them.

For Tammi, getting to work with them was, in her words, “A dream come true. Jim Henson’s creations have been in my life for as long as I can remember, and I think so many people can say that, young and old. Being able to step into their workshop and bring these also beloved characters to life from the franchise was just like a combination that I could have only dreamed of, and I still can’t believe it actually happened. I’m pinching myself.”

Director Emma Tammi on the set of Five Nights at Freddy's

Horror films have given us killer dolls, killer puppets and, with Five Nights at Freddy’s, killer animatronics, proving there is a lot of audience appeal to seeing something meant to be comforting and cute turned into something deadly. Pondering the appeal of this sort of story, Tammi remarked, “I think it’s always fun to be kept on your toes, and animatronics, really… They are of our making, we created them. And yet they have a life of their own as well. And they certainly have a character and personality all of their own.”

She added, with a chuckle, “At times, on set, they would move on their own! They weren’t always following the joysticks that were supposed to be operating them. And I think the unpredictability is something that maybe we’re all drawn to. I’m certainly drawn to it. And certainly the cool character that they have, for me, forms an attachment and then at times terrifies me, and I love that combination as well.”

EXPLORING THE LORE

Five Nights at Freddy’s pulls heavily from the games, including using characters like Mike, Vanessa, and William Afton. However, there are specifics that get overhauled here, including elements of characters’ backstories and lineage.

The game’s creator, Scott Cawthon, was involved in the movie, writing earlier drafts of the screenplay and serving as a producer and Tammi explained how they used him as a barometer for what could be tweaked vs. what should be kept closer to the source material.

Said Tammi, “We were really leaning on him to let us know if we were doing something that he felt like the fanbase would not respond to well.” As they developed the film further, Tammi explained, “I think we had real liberty and freedom to build out these stories and incorporate elements from the franchise, knowing that the tentpoles of doing what this fanbase would really love were being guided by Scott. That was huge.”

KID STUFF

Piper Rubio as Abby Schmidt in Five Nights at Freddy's

As the film progresses, Abby ends up playing a big role, with Piper?Rubio proving to be a talented actress, whether she’s doing dramatic scenes with Josh Hutcherson or interacting with the likes of Freddy Fazbear, Bonnie, Chica and the other animatronic characters.

Tammi was suitably impressed by her young star, noting, “Piper Rubio, who plays the character of Abby, is 10 years old and is a real breakout, I think. She’s so authentically herself. She was so connected to this character of Abby and I think she just hit it out of the park.”

In the film, Abby is initially charmed by the animatronics, who seem friendly to her, and Tammi noted Rubio had a similar relationship with the creatures on set, saying she had a great time making the film. Said Tammi, “Piper was the closest of anyone to all the animatronics. She would give them a hug every day going on set and then give them a hug when she was leaving every day. She was very attached, and having the time of her life. It was a great, great experience for her.”

Five Nights at Freddy’s premieres October 27 in theaters and on Peacock.


Eric Goldman
Eric Goldman is Managing Editor for Fandom. He's a bit obsessed with Star Wars, Marvel, Disney, theme parks, and horror movies... and a few other things. Too many, TBH.
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