EXCLUSIVE: While attending New York Comic Con, Universal Pictures invited Vital Thrills to speak with Emma Tammi, the director of the Five Nights at Freddy’s movie hitting theaters and streaming on Peacock this October 27. An adaptation of the popular horror game series, the film has been in development for eight years.
During out exclusive interview, Tammi discussed working closely with the game’s creator, working with the Jim Henson Company, and getting the maximum scare out of the material.
Vital Thrills: I remember years ago talking to Duncan Jones, who told me about his problems making Warcraft with not only the studio over his shoulder, but also the video game company who had to protect their assets. Even though Five Nights at Freddy’s is a much smaller film than Warcraft, did you still have to navigate those two spheres of influence?
Emma Tammi: Yeah. We were working in partnership with Scott Cawthon on this, and he was really acting as that kind of creative supervisor in terms of protecting the IP and making sure what we were crafting was going to deliver for the fanbase that he felt committed to making this movie for.
Jason Blum coming on board to produce really supported that, and also thought it was paramount for Scott to be completely involved in helping guide this. I think that was really, really effective.
Vital Thrills: In terms of conceptualizing the film, how do you juggle the creepy tone while keeping it aimed at that tween audience?
Emma Tammi: We knew we were going to do a PG-13 rating for this film to be able to include that younger audience, but I don’t think at any point we felt like we needed to be pandering or pull back. We really wanted to create the fun and humorous moments for them and adult audiences as well, but mix that with the creepy atmosphere of FNaF. And of course jumpscares, too.
I think the bigger thing was just knowing that we needed to pull back on how much gore we might have shown if we were going for an R rating, but I think there’s really creative opportunities in there and ways to show death scenes that are a little bit more creative than if you’re just seeing all the guts spill out… which of course is fun in its own right too.
Vital Thrills: The fun and creep factor of the game comes from the fact that you can just fixate and settle on things. You don’t necessarily get the quick cuts in the game like you would in a feature film. Was it your aim to try to retain that sense of the uncanny?
Emma Tammi: Absolutely. There’s so much patience in the game. Of course, the amount of time that we had to play with was different on a feature film timeline. Whereas in the game, you can be the sitting for 30 minutes in that atmospheric quality before the jump comes in. It’s super effective. We were trying to do that with a different medium.
Vital Thrills: Right, because horror movies are constantly doing that tug of war where they want to make the audience jump and scream, but it can often be more effective to just be unsettling and let the audience marinate in their fear.
Emma Tammi: Absolutely. Yeah, I think not knowing what’s about to come around the corner can be more frightening than actually seeing something come around the corner. (laughs) Your imagination does double duty.
Vital Thrills: Yeah, leaving a little bit of space in the frame, all that stuff. In terms of the actual things that come around the corner, you worked with The Jim Henson Company to make the animatronics. What was it like working with the brain trust there to develop these characters into their most iconic form?
Emma Tammi: It was incredible. Not only because of their amazing talent and creativity, but also because they were so passionate about being faithful to the designs of the game and bringing these animatronics to life in a way that would completely resonate with the fans. In some ways, that’s harder to do than if you’re able to just create something new. So, you know, it was a fantastic collaboration.
The terrifying horror game phenomenon becomes a blood-chilling cinematic event, as Blumhouse — the producer of M3GAN, The Black Phone and The Invisible Man — brings Five Nights at Freddy’s to the big screen.
The film follows a troubled security guard as he begins working at Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza. While spending his first night on the job, he realizes the night shift at Freddy’s won’t be so easy to make it through.
Five Nights at Freddy’s stars Josh Hutcherson (Ultraman, The Hunger Games franchise), Elizabeth Lail (You, Mack & Rita), Piper Rubio (Holly & Ivy, Unstable), and Kat Conner Sterling (We Have a Ghost, 9-1-1).
The cast also includes Mary Stuart Masterson (Blindspot, Fried Green Tomatoes) and Matthew Lillard (Good Girls, Scream).
Five Nights at Freddy’s was written by Scott Cawthon, Emma Tammi and Seth Cuddeback. The film was produced by Jason Blum and Scott Cawthon.
The movie’s executive producers are Bea Sequeira, Russell Binder and Christopher H. Warner.
Max Evry has been a film journalist since 2005, serving at various times as a writer, interviewer, graphic designer, podcaster, video creator, features editor, and managing editor. Past media outlets have included MTV, /Film, IGN, and Fangoria. For home video companies Arrow, Kino Lorber, Indicator, and Via Vision he has provided Blu-ray audio commentaries as well as featurettes for classic and contemporary films including “Flatliners,” “Blackhat,” and Best Picture Oscar winner “Marty.” In 2023 he released his first book “A Masterpiece in Disarray: David Lynch’s Dune – An Oral History” to considerable acclaim.