If you’ve been on the internet over the last decade, you know about Five Nights at Freddy’s. Created by Scott Cawthorn, the first game took the world by storm when it came out in 2014. Everyone was hooked on this simple yet horrifying game that came out of nowhere. The creepy atmosphere, the even creepier animatronics, and the surprisingly deep lore had people returning game after game. The series has spawned countless sequels, prequels, and spin-offs, as well as nearly 30 books. With all this popularity, it was only a matter of time before a movie was made, and in comes Blumhouse. Initially being teased nearly eight years ago, Five Nights at Freddy’s (the movie) has finally arrived. But did it live up to the hype? Was it scary enough? Did your favourite FNAF Youtuber from your childhood make an appearance? I’ll answer all those questions shortly, but first, we’ve got the lore to talk about.
The film is set in the year 2000 and follows Mike Schmidt, a man down on his luck after being fired from his mall security job. As he needs a job to help his kid sister, Abby, Mike decides to visit career counsellor Steve Raglan. Steve offers him another security gig, but this time, it’s at the abandoned Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza Place. After begrudgingly accepting the job, Mike’s adventures at Freddy’s begin. What follows is murderous animatronics, a child murder conspiracy, and ghost children who just want a new friend. Mike must now figure out just what the hell is going on while searching for clues about his little brother, who was kidnapped when they were younger, and how everything is connected.
You’d think an indie horror game would have a simple story. Something to warrant the scares and horrible situations you’d find yourself in. Well, Five Nights at Freddy’s is one of the more confusing video game series regarding its story, and the film does a decent enough job of including as much as possible. The film combines elements from a handful of games, mostly FNAF 1 and 3, and is able to translate the major plot points decently. It’s not a one-to-one translation of the source material, but the story’s heart is still here. They also added some new elements to the story, which worked well. It does take a while to get going, dragged a little, and felt a bit disjointed, but I think they did the best they could’ve with the massive amount of lore. One thing that was excellently done, though, was the characters, both human and robotic.
The characters helped this film greatly in making it an enjoyable viewing experience. Matthew Lillard put in the best performance of the film as Steve Raglan (not the character’s real name, but I won’t spoil the surprise). He didn’t have as much screen time as the others, but he left a lasting impression, and I want to see more of his character in the inevitable sequel. Josh Hutchenson did well as Mike Schmidt, bringing life to a previously faceless name (there were theories, but whatever). Elizabeth Lail as Vanessa surprised me with her performance as I thought she would be a random side-character/easter egg. Instead, she was an integral part of the story, and I enjoyed her performance.
I can’t review this movie without mentioning the selling point of the franchise: the animatronics. The cast of death robots from the first game (Freddy, Bonnie, Chica, Foxy) are all here, and they look excellent. Jim Henson’s Creature Workshop created each animatronic, and they did a stellar job. They aren’t as scary as their video game counterparts, with each jumpscare being heavily telegraphed, but they still had that eerie presence. They also had some creative kills to get around that M rating. There was one in particular where someone got a rather gruesome death for a film not rated higher. But the real creep of the animatronic bunch is the yellow rabbit that shows up, but that’s delving into spoilers (if you know, you know).
Going into this film, one of the things I was most excited about was the references and cameos. With how much YouTubers have contributed to the series, I expected a few to show up. And while there weren’t as many cameos as I thought, the Game Theorist, Matpat, did show up. He was only in there for a few seconds, but he made them count (he even said, “It’s just a theory”).
Aside from cameos, there were easter eggs and nods to not only the other games but even the novels as well. There was a Sparky the Dog costume on the floor, references to Circus Baby, and even some of the old minigames appeared. The intro also used the pixel style found in the older games’ cutscenes. All of this will add to the experience if you’re a fan of the series, but if you don’t have prior history, you might be confused or lost because the film doesn’t explain anything with the references or some plot details.
The biggest issue with the film is that it doesn’t explain anything and assumes you already know the general gist of the franchise. Whether it’s lines that would feel out of place like “I’ll always come back” or not explaining how the ghosts of children are trapped in animatronics. The first games also didn’t explain much, but when translated into a film, general audiences require a bit more of an explanation. It doesn’t help that there are some weird shifts in tone during the middle of the film that derail the tension a little. Combine these shifts in tone with a fairly generic story and confusing plot elements, and many people might leave the film confused. Hopefully, they can address these issues in the sequel without alienating the fans who love this film.
Five Nights at Freddy’s isn’t the worst horror film I’ve seen, but it’s certainly not the best. The cast’s excellent performances and impressive animatronics are let down by a story that takes too long to get going and scares that can be seen a mile away. While the kills were unique, given the M rating, I wish they did more and pushed for a more mature rating. With the all-but-confirmed sequels, hopefully, they can build off what works and make something truly special for fans and newcomers alike.
Did you watch Five Nights at Freddy’s? What did you think? Who is your favourite animatronic? Let us know in the comments where we can talk about that kill.