Back in December of 2015. I was sent a link by a friend to play a small desktop game online called ‘Five Nights at Freddy’s’. The gameplay was simplistic, the graphics were okay, but the amount of tension it had wrought out of me via a few buttons clicks was unbelievable. Since then, the game has gone on to become something of a cultural phenomenon amongst the game community and and a further four sequels have only cemented it’s status as a cult classic. So, why has Hollywood not come calling? At one point, Warner Bros. had purchased the movie rights, with a view to producing a movie. The game’s creator Scott Cawthon had been attached to develop the project and Jim Henson’s Creature Shop had been onboard to handle the animatronic effects. The project then became stuck in development hell as so many ideas do, passing through writers and directors but with no forward movement. So, I’m going to state the case for a ‘Five Nights At Freddy’s’ movie, and hopefully, someone in Hollywood is reading..
Why ‘Five Nights At Freddy’s’?
The Horror genre is absolutely booming at the box office and has been for a number of years. ‘The Conjouring‘ franchise has racked in the cash, whilst ‘Annabele‘ ‘Ouija‘ ‘Split‘ and ‘Don’t Breathe‘ have all been notable successes. This year, ‘Get Out‘ has also dominated globally, proving that low budget, high concept horror with diverse casting can be a hit with audiences around the world. There’s no reason why with a bit polish, a decent script and a talented director, ‘Five Nights At Freddy’s’ can’t join these other films in scoring big with audiences. The budgets for modern horror films are generally modest, and in fact, big budgets tend to be a hindrance from a creative point of view. With such a simple concept, ‘Five Nights At Freddy’s’ really doesn’t need a big production budget. Most of the major effort should go into the production design and creature effects. Why not re-hire the Jim Henson’s Creature Shop crew? Animatronics and puppeteer work is their speciality, and with a wealth of experience of bringing vivid creations to life, they would surely do a tremendous job.
Survival horror is a sub-genre that is crying out for big hits. ‘Don’t Breathe’ was a great new addition to this and ‘Five Nights’ could be the the movie that propels it into the pop culture. The movie adaptation should focus on on the elements of the game that really work, ie: a lone character surviving 5 nights of psychological hell in a creepy ass restaurant whilst slowly unravelling some dark secrets. There’s really no need for more than a few locations within the film, which will then add to the feeling of claustrophobia and paranoia for the watching audience. Keep the main character stripped off weapons and tools, simply keep them in place with a cellphone (with no signal of course), a security camera system and control of the doors around the restaurant and let fear do the rest!
With puppets a plenty, there is lots of potential for merchandising opportunities but with this movie being a box office success, you all so have lots of material to build on and create sequels for. As long as there is some quality control exercised over these, there should be plenty to work with for future movies too.
Who should be involved?
There really is only one studio working in Hollywood that has been able to capture the imagination of horror fans like no other, and that is Blumhouse Productions. Responsible for producing many of the genres recent hits of recent years, the studio is on a roll. They have excelled at supporting low budget filmaking in general and a ‘Five Nights’ adaptation would need a supportive studio that would back it’s film makers and have confidence in the source material. The have also show some interesting innovation in the way they have marketed their films, which will be a huge benefit. Non-gamers probably wont have a clue why ‘Five Nights’ would be so significant, so generating buzz will be hugely important to the films success.
So what about the talent behind the camera? For a director carving a name for themselves in the genre, it’s hard to look beyond the very talented Fede Alvarez. Alvarez has a great recent track record within the genre and his ambitious ‘Evil Dead’ remake showed he has an eye for detail and building tension. Another name to throw into the hat would be Jordan Peele. Peele’s ‘Get Out’ shocked the world with it’s chilling efficiency and thought provoking subject matter. If anyone can draw some biting social commentary from the material, it would be Peele. And if social commentary is to play a part in the script (and it should) why not get who I think is one of the best exponents of social horror thrillers around, Charlie Brooker? His work on the Black Mirror series has been absolutely fantastic at creating exciting, tense stories with a message. Any ‘Five Nights’ adaption would benefit from Brooker’s searing dialogue and ability to explore classic movie themes through a modern sensibility.
As for stars, as I suggested with the previous post, this should be used as an opportunity to make new stars rather than relying on the tried and tested. Mostly because I love to see new talent being given opportunities, but also because doing so helps to keep the costs down overall. For the lead role, I would go with Alex Lawther (yes, another Brit). He showed tremendous range and emotion in Black Mirror and also made you sympathise with a difficult character. I would also cast someone like Sam Rockwell as “Phone Guy”. It would probably only require a few days work for him, and his laconic voice would be perfect for the nonchalantly imparted information from a key character. I would also find some way to work in Dennis Haysbert, just cos. No real reason, just want to see more of him! But of course, the most important stars of any ‘Five Nights’ adaption should always be the animatronic puppets. I toyed with the idea of giving them voices, but actually, having them stay silent throughout would be far more menacing!
‘Five Nights At Freddy’s’ has the potential to be this generations ‘Child’s Play’, a seminal horror movie that grips audiences for years. With a buoyant new studio backing it and lots of talent behind the scenes, crafting a great scrip shouldn’t be difficult. As long as the filmmakers understand the strength of the game is based on the power of playing with human psychology and stick to that, there should be no end of thrills and terror that they can deliver. add to this a solid marketing campaign and global box office success should be just a few short years away. You’ll never look at a kids entertainment restaurant the same way again..