Allegedly the movie adaptation of the indie horror game smash hit Five Nights at Freddy's has finally entered production. With multiple delays, a complete script overhaul, and a very similar concept starring a very well-known actor having already been released, what can horror and video game fans expect when Freddy Fazbear steps out of gameplay and into theaters?
There are definite challenges to adapting a video game to screen. While a plot-heavy and character-driven game like The Last of Us has enough foundation to write a script on, more visual-based and jump-scare-laden entries, like Resident Evil and Silent Hill, flounder. Five Nights at Freddy's is a jumpscare, youtube-streamer, sensation created by Scott Cawthorn and released in 2014. The gameplay is incredibly simple with the player acting as a security guard left to watch the restaurant Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzeria overnight but warned that the animatronics wander the restaurant murderously. As the security guard, the player switches between different security cameras as the animatronics move about, creeping towards the security office.
YouTube is just littered with videos of fans jumping out of their skin as Freddy Fazbear (think Chuck E. Cheese) suddenly faces the security camera or Foxy makes a run for the office. It was only a matter of time and after ten game entries, three spin-offs, a novel trilogy, and a written anthology series, that a film adaptation would be set in motion in 2017 by, of course, Blumhouse. To be fair, Warner Bros. Pictures bought the rights in 2015 but apparently couldn’t reach an artistic compromise with Scott Cawthorn on the nature and approach of the FNAF film.
And so, it's been six years since a film adaptation of Five Nights at Freddy's was announced and in that time fan concepts and Willy's Wonderland (produced by and starring Nic Cage) have been released shrinking the number of approaches FNAF can take and be relevant. FNAF lore is as much Scott Cawthorn’s as it is the fans. With a Scott Cawthorn and Blumhouse approved script now in the works, here are a few visual directions FNAF could take.
All the CGI
Five Nights at Freddy's is a video game on multiple platforms and, as such, is CGI. While CGI can be very hit or miss in horror, recent developments in the technology over the years have rendered very strong character designs and better engines that begin to eliminate the “uncanny valley” of computer-generated audience immersion. But it is still CGI and horror works best when it is tangible.
So while a heavy CGI hand would result in a direct video game to screen character design, there’s still the gulf of attachment to real that becomes ever wider when a real human actor interacting with the CGI is involved. And, frankly, CGI gore never looks as tangible as a good practical blood effect and Five Nights at Freddy’s is at least subconsciously bloody in gameplay.
Willy's Wonderland, less an imitator and more parallel thinking that got its product out ahead of FNAF, uses a combination of humans in creature suits designed to look like possessed animatronics with a little CGI to smooth out transitions. Willy's Wonderland is a similar structure, a mute overnight “janitor” (Nic Cage) is besieged by devilish animatronics, and a great testing ground for the direction of the FNAF film. The creature suits work giving a wide range of motion and eliminating the uncanny valley with the infusion of “real.”
Where it doesn’t work is also that it’s... a human in a suit. In wide shots, the suits tremble humanly in motion while in tight shots the CGI details smooth out. The other hurdle of the human suit is, again, gore. Budgets are real and large costumes requiring puppeteering are rarely affordable to be created in duplicate or easily cleanable to allow for heavy blood and viscera splatters on them. As a result, Willy’s Wonderland for all its Satanic, animatronic spine ripping glory features no detailed shots of the character creatures performing these acts. This is an area FNAF could push to the next level.
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