After nearly eight years of development, “Five Nights at Freddy’s” — familiarly known as FNaF — finally made its way from games to the silver screen Oct. 27. For FNaF fanatics, the film is a long-awaited treat that elegantly blends the games’ rich lore with new, original story elements and a slew of nods to the fandom.
Directed by Emma Tammi, “Five Nights at Freddy’s” dives into the game series’ nightmarish animatronics and the eerie atmosphere of Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza. It’s a rollercoaster of theatrical thrills and cheer, but whether or not you’ll enjoy it depends largely on your love for the franchise.
Set in the year 2000, the film follows the story of a young security guard, Mike Schmidt (Josh Hutcherson), who takes a night shift at Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza, a dilapidated restaurant/funhouse, to provide for his younger sister, Abby (Piper Rubio). Upon starting the job, however, the mystery and horrors behind Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza unravel around him. Viewers watch Mike connect the pieces of Freddy’s history with his personal past, all while fighting to protect himself and his sister.
For fans of the series, the film’s greatest strength is its faithfulness to the source material. The game’s creator, Scott Cawthon, has always managed to keep players on their toes with a complex, ever-expanding narrative, and the movie is no different. Cawthon’s role as creative lead helped the film fit in perfectly with the universe he created, making dedicated fans feel right at home while watching.
The movie effectively captures the same general sense of dread and suspense that the game is known for. As Mike navigates the dimly lit pizzeria and tries to survive the night, audiences undergo a host of jump scares and heart-pounding moments that would make any “Five Nights at Freddy’s” enthusiast glow with joy.
The animatronic replicas are incredibly accurate to the games, perfectly straddling the line between huggable and terrifying. While the horror elements of the film are by no means bone-chilling, they add an excellent touch of suspense and thrill that pays proper homage to the feelings the original games elicit.
A multitude of easter eggs plastered throughout the movie gave FNaF fanatics something to look forward to in each scene. The soundtrack, references to other characters in the games and actual cameos by famous community members, even those new to the franchise, show the massive amount of respect the filmmakers had for Cawthon’s universe.
While the FNaF movie is rich in detail, it fails to focus on the larger picture: delivering a satisfying narrative. Instead of crafting a coherent story, the film oscillates between eerie, suspense-driven setpieces and feel-good celebrity cameos.
Casual viewers will be confused as to why half the theater yells “MATPAT!” at an otherwise unremarkable diner scene, and that is by design. FNaF does not pause to explain to the viewer who William Afton—the classic “Purple Guy” from the games, played by Matthew Lillard in the film — is or why a security guard finds himself strapped to a chair as a mechanical animatronic suit with razor blades whizzes closer and closer to his face. The movie operates under the assumption that the viewer already understands what is happening.
For anyone who has not spent hundreds of hours playing the games, this movie will disappoint. It can be difficult to develop any attachment to the supporting characters if one hasn’t already developed these affections outside of the film.
Even for FNaF fans, Mike’s dreams can seem redundant and senseless, adding to an almost two-hour runtime that does not need the extra content. Perhaps worst of all, the actors’ awkward dialogue delivery overshadows the film’s meticulous set design and nostalgia-filled soundtrack.
Still, the powerful nostalgia this film will induce for the avid FNaF fan makes it worth a watch. Our recommendation is this: if you want to get in on the fun, start with the games. This is a narrative best experienced in the first-person, and this movie certainly won’t change that.
Ultimately, while it may not be a genre-defining masterpiece, the film manages to cater to its passionate fanbase with genuine enthusiasm. It may not convert newcomers into fans of the franchise, but for those who have spent countless nights trying to survive at Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza, it’s a cinematic journey down memory lane that’s not to be missed.