Until Dawn Adds Its First Cast Members With a Twist – What Does This Mean for the Movie?

Make Your Choice

While the interactive drama genre is nothing new, Until Dawn is arguably one of the most famous of them all. The game shot developer Supermassive Games to the top of the industry. Since its release, the company has released five other interactive horror games, with two more on the way. Until Dawn is getting a remake later this year, as well as a movie adaptation, but the recent casting announcement specified “new characters”. What does this mean for the Until Dawn movie?

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A Straight Adaptation?

Until Dawn follows a group of eight students who come under attack from horrific forces while staying in a secluded mansion over the weekend. Over the course of the game, players will make decisions that determine which of the students will make it through the night, and which will die gruesomely.

The original game had a cast including notable Hollywood actors including Hayden Panetierre, Rami Malek, Nichole Sakura, and Peter Stormare. However, whether the cast would reprise their roles was always questionable. The original game came out in 2015 and, while some of the cast members are in their thirties and could potentially pull it off, Rami Malek is in his forties, which may stretch credulity a little too much.

The announced cast so far includes Ella Rubin, Michael Cimino, Odessa A’zion, and Ji-young Yoo. However, the official announcement specifies that they’re portraying new characters.

This suggests that the adaptation isn’t a direct game-to-screen one. While this was arguably always a tricky prospect by the nature of the game, it looks like we’ll be getting an entirely new cast of characters, as opposed to seeing familiar ones experiencing the events of the game.

There are several options we can consider here.

The first is that the new characters will simply be the supporting cast. This in itself feels strange, as a film would usually reveal the lead roles first. While the announced cast so far doesn’t quite have someone as immediately recognizable as the game had, they’re still established names with histories within the industry. Seeing them play supporting roles that are advertised above the leads would be an odd choice.

The second is that the film will retell the story of the game with new characters. This would arguably open the door to new scares and change up the familiar relationships. However, it also feels like a pointless change.

Until Dawn Ashley and Josh in the Saw trap
Image Source: Sony Computer Entertainment

Let’s consider the motivations of the characters. Until Dawn spends roughly half the game with the characters being stalked by a serial killer, only to reveal that this was all a prank orchestrated by Josh, in revenge for the death of his sisters in another prank the previous year. The true danger facing the teens is in fact the group of wendigos stalking the mountain. While we could theoretically see the same story play out with different characters, it would amount to nothing but a cosmetic, and ultimately needless, change.

It’s possible that while the core of the story will remain the same, the motivations will see a shake-up. Maybe the prank will be excised entirely, with the wendigos coming into focus sooner. Perhaps there will be a prank, but it’ll have a different motivation. In either case, the change might again feel pointless at best, and risk angering established fans at worst.

It’s also worth noting that sticking too close to the game is impossible. After all, there are over 250 different endings, depending on your choices. Even if the film matches the key story beats it would still need to pick a lane. Which characters would the film kill off, and who would make it to the end?

A New Direction

The satisfaction we get from games differs from what we get in movies. In a film, we might want to see a few characters survive, but we also want to see some die. As such, if the film is a close adaptation, it’s unlikely to pick the “best” ending.

It’s worth noting that Until Dawn does have a prequel, namely The Inpatient. This game is set over 50 years prior to the events of the game, and given its initial release on the PS VR, it’s also a game that fewer people have played. This could potentially open the door for a “closer” adaptation, albeit not of the game we thought we’d get when the film was announced.

The Inpatient cover art
Image Source: Sony Interactive Entertainment

However, there is another option.

Wendigos aren’t unique to Until Dawn. They’re a mythological creature from Algonquian lore with roots stretching back hundreds or even thousands of years. Until Dawn might have an interesting take on them, but in modern pop culture alone they’ve appeared in everything from Supernatural to Steven King. As such, there’s potentially room to tell a new story in the Until Dawn universe. This would free the film from the baggage it’d face as a direct adaptation, while still maintaining the core mythology.

Even better, this approach could potentially set up a full-fledged sequel to the game, something fans have been clamoring for for some time.

Part of what makes games like Until Dawn work so well is that we know opening the door is a bad idea, but we forget. In the heat of the moment, we make all the mistakes we’ve spent years rolling our eyes at. A film would almost act as a challenge, and we’d love the chance to decide the characters’ fates for ourselves.

Interactive Films

Whatever direction the movie goes with, there’s also the possibility that Until Dawn will break the decision-making aspect into a movie, albeit this is a rarity: the film itself could be interactive.

This is still a relative rarity within cinema, but there are a few different options they could take.

The most obvious would be to follow the footsteps of Black Mirror or Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: give us a whole film, and let us make decisions as it progresses which can drastically affect the storyline.

This would be an ambitious undertaking. In fact, it could well be the most ambitious interactive film of all time. Bandersnatch had us make decisions for one character. Kimmy vs. The Reverend upped the ante to four. If Until Dawn follows in the footsteps of the game, we’d have eight different characters to guide through the night, and the story could change significantly based on who dies and when.

Until Dawn Wendigo Hannah screaming at Sam
Image Source: Sony Computer Entertainment

The other option would be smaller, but still in keeping with the tone: The Final Destination 3 option.

Final Destination 3 experimented with interactive fiction with the “Choose Their Fates” feature, available on the DVD. This option interrupted the story at key points, giving the viewer a simple decision such as calling Heads or Tails for a coin flip, or turning a sunbed to 73 degrees or 76 degrees. These decisions usually resulted in nothing but an alternate death, but in some cases ended the film early. Only one character could be “saved”, and he disappeared from the story entirely.

This option would be a more cost-efficient effort, while still offering a modicum of choice. It’d still result in characters disappearing from the action, whether they escape, get captured, or simply die differently. However, this decision feels a little unlikely. The film is being produced by Screen Gems and PlayStation Productions, neither of whom has a reason to take half-measures. While something similar to the “Choose Their Fates” feature might work if there are alternate scenes, it’s more likely that PlayStation Productions would take a “Go Big or Go Home” option, opting to jump into interactivity rather than simply lean into it.

Of course, this is all speculative at the moment. We could simply be reading too much into it, and we’ll be getting new characters experiencing the same events. The film could excise the interactivity entirely and just give us a straight film. Maybe there won’t be a new game at all, but Supermassive Games have never limited themselves to doing what everyone else is doing. Why start now?

Supermassive Games’ next project, The Casting of Frank Stone, is set within the universe of the hit horror franchise Dead by Daylight.

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Image of Lewis Rees
Lewis Rees
Lewis is an author and journalist based in Wales. His first novel, Wander, came out in 2017. Lewis is passionate about games, and has travelled to events worldwide to host and present panels at games conferences. In his spare time he loves reading, writing, and escape rooms.