Tag Archives: Emma Tammi

Poor Career Choice

Five Nights at Freddy’s

by Hope Madden

Two years ago, director Kevin Lewis essentially made the live action horror film based on the video game Five Nights at Freddy’s. He did not have a license, but he did have Nicolas Cage. Lewis’s 2021 flick Willy’s Wonderland is an eccentric lock-in with one silent janitor (Cage), and a bunch of Chuck E. Cheese style animatronics out for blood.

It’s not very good. But Cage is very Cage in it – kicking animatronic ass, taking regular breaks to rest up and play some pinball, and uttering not a single word.

Director Emma Tammi (The Wind) does have the rights to the video game IP. But she does not have Cage.

What Five Nights at Freddy’s misses more than anything is the sense of macabre humor that seems a requirement for a film about, essentially, a blood thirsty Country Bears Jamboree.

Josh Hutcherson is a down-on-his-luck big brother. He needs a job, or his wicked aunt (Mary Stuart Masterson) is going to take custody of his little sister, Abby (Piper Rubio). So, he’s desperate. Just desperate enough to take an offer from a sketchy career counselor (Matthew Lillard) for security detail at the long-shuttered kids’ entertainment pizzeria.

Though Masterson’s storyline is predicably moustache-twirling evil, she’s fun. Lillard is reliably, weirdly creepy and his every moment onscreen is a twisted delight.

I like Hutcherson. He was a hoot in Tyler McIntyre’s 2017 gem Tragedy Girls. He has no opportunity to do anything with Mike the Forlorn. Hutcherson grimaces and looks pained for 90 minutes.

Tammi – who’s horror Western The Wind delivered a spare, spooky descent into madness – cannot land on a tone for this one. The script she co-wrote with Seth Cuddeback is a plodding predictable dirge. Game writer Scott Cawthon gets a credit as well, but it’s unclear how much he might have contributed to the screenplay.

The film builds no momentum, most scenes cut short in favor of an emotional flashback, a contrived family moment, or a dream sequence that can’t conjure the eeriness needed to push the film into horror territory.

There’s meanness in the kills, but certainly no blood, and no macabre delight, either.

Willy’s Wonderland was a weak, predictable, dumb film but at least it had Nicolas Cage.

Whispers and Wails

The Wind

by Hope Madden

There are not enough horror westerns. And why not? The whole Wild West thing feels like a terrifying, isolated, dangerous adventure—especially for women.

Director Emma Tammi’s first narrative feature, The Wind, pulls together all those ideas and more into an absorbing little nightmare.

Lizzy and Isaac Macklin (Caitlin Gerard and Ashley Zukerman, respectively) are relieved to see smoke coming from a distant chimney. The only other cabin for miles has been empty a long while, and the prairie does get lonesome.

But companionship and burden go hand in hand for Lizzy, and company won’t chase away all the demons plaguing this harsh land.

Working from a spare script by Teresa Sutherland, Tammi develops a wonderfully spooky descent into madness. Throughout Lizzy’s isolation, Tammi swaps images onscreen from present moment reality to weeks earlier, to months earlier, to a present-day hallucination or specter and back again. The looping time frame and repetitive imagery turn in on themselves to create a dizzying effect that echoes Lizzy’s headspace.

Gerard spends nearly as much screen time alone as she does with co-stars, and her turn is haunting. There’s nothing showy in this performance, Gerard slyly betraying one emotion at a time through the character’s well-rehearsed stoicism and reserve.

It’s a feat of imagination and execution for both Gerard and Tammi, turning this small production—only five principle actors and two sets—into a hypnotic ordeal. Tammi’s confident pacing and Gerard’s masterful performance ensure a gripping trip through a merciless slice of prairie life.