The franchise was originally created by Scott Cawthon, who developed Five Nights after a stalled career making Christian-centric games and films. The first Five Nights was made independently and released in 2014, earning critical acclaim and a massive fan base for an indie game. Several sequels and related spinoff games have come in the ensuing decade, including an interstellar offshoot called Freddy in Space.
Cawthon retired from game development entirely in 2021, following controversial revelations that he had donated thousands of dollars to a number of Republican politicians in 2020, including Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell. In a lengthy post on the hugely popular FNAF subreddit, Cawthon wrote, “I’m a Republican. I’m a Christian. I’m pro-life. I believe in God. I also believe in equality, and in science, and in common sense. Despite what some may say, all of those things can go together. That’s not an apology or promise to change, it’s the way it’s always been.” He proclaimed his support for LGBTQ+ members of the Five Nights community, but also somewhat flippantly wrote, “If I get canceled, then I get canceled.”
When he departed, Cawthon stated that he would find a successor to shepherd the franchise, and Five Nights does appear to be soldiering on under new leadership—Five Nights at Freddy’s Help Wanted 2 was announced at May’s PlayStation Showcase, and, per IGN, seems to be a sequel to a 2019 offshoot game initially released for VR devices.
Jason Topolski, a Pixar veteran and head of Steel Wool Studios, has been involved in the direction on some recent installments, though it still seems unclear who will be in charge of developing the franchise in Cawthon’s stead.
Who’s involved in the movie?
When FNAF’s trailer dropped, non-gamer horror-movie buffs undoubtedly took note of its striking resemblance to the 2021 Nicolas Cage horror flick Willy’s Wonderland, though obviously Cawson’s franchise preceded the mildly amusing Cage release. (Five Nights was heavily invoked in criticism of Willy’s, and there was controversy in the gaming community over similarities between the two.)
While the FNAF movie doesn’t boast a genre-film draw of Cagean magnitude, it does feature a strong crop of talent both in front of and behind the cameras. Ubiquitous child star and Hunger Games deuteragonist Josh Hutcherson plays the lead role, and he’s previously excelled in the underseen horror comedy with Tragedy Girls. Other key roles are filled by Gossip Girl’s Elizabeth Lail, longtime character actor Matthew Lillard (Stu Macher in Scream and Shaggy in the ‘00 live-action Scooby-Doo movies), and Mary Stuart Masterson, best known for films like Fried Green Tomatoes, but also a gifted genre performer who’s showcased that side of her artistry in Daniel Isn’t Real.