It only took only took four nights for Five Nights at Freddy's to conquer the box office.
The PG-13 rated horror movie based on the wildly popular video game franchise opened to a killer $78 million between Thursday and Sunday, fueled by the youthful fanbase that grew up with Freddy Fazbear and his freaky animatronic pals.
That's the biggest debut for any scary movie so far this year, the highest-grossing opening for any movie released Halloween weekend and the second-best bow for a movie that premiered in theaters and on a streaming service — in this case, Peacock — the same day. Meanwhile, Freddy himself has raced past Michael Myers to become Blumhouse's biggest star; Jason Blum confirmed on X (formerly known as Twitter) that Five Nights at Freddy's is his horror factory's "biggest opening movie of all time," surpassing the 2018 Halloween reboot.
There's no question that Freddy slayed his box-office competition, including Taylor Swift and Martin Scorsese. But horror fans visiting Freddy Fazbear's Pizza for the first time couldn't help but ask... why didn't these creepy critters slay more people in the movie? Freddy's body count is surprisingly low, with only one extended sequence where he and his partners-in-jump-scares are seen stalking and killing their prey — a trio of goons hired to make trouble for beleaguered security guard Mike (Josh Hutcherson).
Asked about the movie's relatively modest murder spree, Five Nights director Emma Tammi tells Yahoo Entertainment that the body count was dictated by the setting.
"The pizzeria is abandoned, so there are only so many people who are going to enter it in a believable way," she explains. "We tried to keep the story grounded so that there's a satisfying balance of intruders destined to get what was coming to them from the animatronics."
Tammi also points out that Five Nights at Freddy's extensive (and trauma-filled) lore doesn't require a body count to be scary. "Our central characters are dealing with their own personal traumas," she says of Freddy, Chica, Bonnie and Foxy — whose animatronic bodies turn out to be inhabited by the ghosts of murdered children. "The backstory that we include is quite dark, but not necessarily gory and don't necessarily include kills."
And while Blumhouse's other PG-13 rated horror hit M3GAN scored an "Unrated" cut, Tammi is already shooting down the idea of an R-rated trip to Freddy Fazbear's Pizza that would feature more murder on the menu. Not for nothing, but that approach runs contrary to the spirit of the games, which provide a gateway to horror for kids by emphasizing creepiness over bloodshed. "I'm really proud of how we toed that line in the film," Tammi says. "You get your jump scares and you get the funny and quirky stuff."
With Freddy's fever in full effect, Tammi answers other burning questions about a horror franchise that will be dominating Halloween for years to come.
Do you have to be a Freddy's fan to enjoy the movie?
There's no question that there's a pronounced generation gap when it comes to Freddy's fandom. Creator Scott Cawthon dropped the first point-and-click game in 2014, putting it squarely in the Gen Z and Gen A demographic. Not surprisingly, those are the moviegoers that showed up in force — and in costume — at the multiplex and powered the film to its record opening.
"We kept the fans in mind throughout the whole thing," Tammi says, adding that extended behind the scenes as well. "People who worked on the film also had kids that were fans of the franchise, and there was so much enthusiasm in bringing them to the table. It really felt like we had a mandate, and we knew what the stakes were, because the excitement was so high."
But there's also an inherent risk that comes with catering to fandom: Those same fans can turn on you if they see something they don't like. Sure enough, Freddy's dodged its own "Ugly Sonic" moment after the first trailer dropped and featured what some fans interpreted as a radical design departure from the games. Ultimately, that turned out to be a tempest in a teapot, but Tammi says she felt the "pressure" to do right by the fans. "I channeled that pressure into the adrenaline and enthusiasm that I was already bringing to the project every day."
While non-fans might feel lost by the many and varied shout-outs to franchise lore, Tammi thinks that they'll be hooked by a movie-specific storyline — the relationship between Mike and his younger sister Abby, who was created for the film and forms a special bond with Freddy. "That relationship is the heart of the story," the director explains. "Scott had a pretty clear blueprint of what he wanted Mike and Abby's arc to look like and I found it really heartwarming and endearing. I also love seeing the pizzeria through the eyes of a child and Abby brings us into that world."
Are those real animatronics?
Yes... and no. The wizards at Jim Henson's Creature Shop were tasked with creating game-accurate versions of the Chuck E. Cheese-like characters at Freddy Fazbear's Pizza, and Tammi says that the final products were a mix of actual animatronics and performers in suits.
"There were different versions and each version allowed us to achieve a different type of movement," the director explains. "Sometimes you're watching a full animatronic and sometimes you're watching a performer in a costume mixed with animatronic parts for some of the movements. We knew they still needed that animatronic feel even if there was a human element as well."
That's also why the production specifically avoided going the digital route with all-CGI creatures, even if the practical route came with additional time and expense. "We had to come up with creative solutions for certain things, but at no point were we in a position where we needed to scrap something and say, 'We're going to build that with visual effects,'" Tammi remembers. "That's a real testament to the Creature Shop in terms of how well they were able to make those characters work."
How did they score that YouTuber cameo?
Early on in Five Nights at Freddy's, there's a surprise appearance by a YouTube superstar that never fails to get the target audience applauding. That superstar is none other than Matthew Robert Patrick aka MatPat, maker of many internet theories — game-related and otherwise — whose connection to Freddy's fandom runs deep. MatPat pops up early on as a waiter in a diner who has a theory about lunch that he wants to share with the goons that later break into the abandoned pizzeria.
Tammi reveals that cameo was one of the first scenes shot for the movie. "MatPat came to set on our very first day of production and brought such a great energy," she recalls. "It was powerful and symbolic to have someone there that's so much a part of the FNaF online community. And he knocked his scene out of the park."
MatPat isn't the only cameo that will have extremely online FNaF lovers cheering. The closing credits blast the tribute song, "Five Nights at Freddy's," written and recorded by The Living Tombstone, one of the premiere Freddy's fan bands. And Tammi expects shout-outs like that to be featured in the many, many FNaF fan videos that abound on YouTube. "All this footage is made to be mulled over, rewatched, dissected and talked about," she says. "I hope the film helps fuel some videos that get the community engaged."
Where is the franchise going next?
With Five Nights at Freddy's having already tripled its reported $20 million production budget, the question is no longer: "Will there be a sequel?" Now everyone is asking: "How many sequels will there be — and how soon can they be released?" FNaF lore certainly offers a wealth of storytelling possibilities that could expand the cinematic universe beyond Mike and Abby.
And Tammi hopes to stick around for additional chapters. "It's a fantastic world to be making films in, and an amazing team to work with," she says, adding that they already have "ideas percolating" for where the film series could go next.
The director points to one clue that's buried at the tail end of the closing credits as a key that could unlock FNaF's future feature film plans. "There's a voice that's spelling out something," she teases. "It's three words that fans will know." Those words? "Come find me" — a reference to a certain puppet who appears in the second video game.
Pro tip to parents: ask your kids to break it down for you.
Five Nights at Freddy's is currently playing in theaters and streaming on Peacock.