Four nights with Five Nights at Freddy’s
By Eva King
I watched in the theater. I watched on Peacock. Then I watched on Peacock twice more. I spent four nights with Five Nights at Freddy’s, the classic indie horror video game’s new film adaptation.
First released all the way back in 2014 I think many fans, along with myself, were surprised at the news of a movie. I was especially surprised to see that it would be produced by Blumhouse Productions, a studio I have come to have an almost morbid obsession with due to their movies like “Willy’s Wonderland” and “M3GAN,” both of which left me in tears.
FNAF was made in collaboration with Jason Blum of Blumhouse Productions and the game’s creator Scott Cawthon – a choice I’m very thankful for because, without him, I feel like the movie would’ve been lost deciding which direction to go in.
The game’s premise, for those who are unfamiliar with it: you’re stationed in your night guard office at Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza trying to make it through your shift from midnight to 6 a.m. while avoiding the game-ending jumpscares of the establishment’s animatronics: Freddy Fazbear, Chica, Bonnie, and Foxy. Think Chuck E. Cheese, but scary.
The description might not sound very terrifying, but what keeps people hooked is the game’s hidden lore. Scattered throughout rare gameplay occurrences and vague pieces of dialogue, you can piece together a dark tale of missing children whose souls possess the animatronic creatures – the hostile creatures you see in game.
This is a story fans have been working to decipher for the last nine years, each new installment giving small hints of the overarching storyline.
In the movie we meet the main character, Mike Schmidt (Josh Hutcherson), a 30-something man plagued by nightmares of his brother’s kidnapping that he witnessed when they were kids.
Schmidt has custody of his much younger sister Abby (Piper Rubio) since their parents’ deaths and is in desperate need of a job. Luckily, career counselor Steve Raglan (Matthew Lillard) is there to offer him a great night guard gig at the old abandoned Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza.
Once Schmidt begins work, he realizes there’s something paranormal going on with the animatronics. With support from police officer Vanessa (Elizabeth Lail), he tries to find the truth behind who kidnapped his brother.
I’m not sure what I expected when watching this movie for the first time. Maybe I expected a 2-hour recreation of the gameplay with Josh Hutcherson in the game. Whatever I witnessed was nothing I was prepared for.
The first part of the movie flew by fairly smoothly, with the expected plot setup and character introductions. There were some characters that I thought could be completely removed and wouldn’t impact the story in a noticeable way. With or without these characters, we get the main point that Mike has to work at Freddy’s.
The middle segment of the movie really threw me for a loop. Instead of being concerned by the animatronics, or even properly doing his job, Mike spends most of his nights at Freddy’s sleeping so he can dream about the day his brother got kidnapped in hopes he’ll somehow remember the perpetrator’s face.
It felt more like the movie focused on Mike and his personal issues rather than the possessed animatronics that are the focus point of the series.
Then, for reasons beyond my understanding, the animatronics are not only docile towards Mike, but go as far as to befriend Abby. If I wasn’t sitting in my cozy Regal Cinema reclining chair, I surely would have fallen to my knees with disbelief as Mike, Vanessa, Abby, and the Fazbear crew started 80’s montage style building a fort in the pizzeria lobby. I wish I was joking. Note that this is after Mike found evidence the animatronics killed a couple of intruders the night before. I was absolutely mortified, but after desensitizing myself to it by watching the movie a few times, I’ve come to like it more. There’s a plot reason about why they’re suddenly so nice to him that I won’t spoil, but it makes the scene a little bit sweeter.
The finale is what really solidified my enjoyment of the movie, with a twist that not even fans of the game would see coming. I can’t say much without spoiling it, but this was probably my favorite part of the movie, aside from the reveal of the main villain’s cheesy weakness, but I expected nothing less from Jason Blum.
I thought this movie worked around its PG-13 rating in a great way, utilizing shadows and implications to tell a gorey story with its only source of onscreen blood being a handprint on a window. The animatronics were designed beautifully, and looked like they were ripped straight out of the game. I was disappointed by the lack of jumpscares from the animatronics themselves though, since that’s the one thing they do in the games, but after three watches, I can confidently say that I enjoyed this movie. Clearly it’s a movie made for the fans, and much like other entries in the franchise, it’s something to be unwrapped layer by layer, like one of those little Russian dolls – or an onion. And just to confirm, yes, Mike really did spend five nights at Freddy’s.