“Five Nights at Freddy’s” has been in production since February 2023. Photo courtesy of Youtube.
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Horror production studio Blumhouse’s newest film, “Five Nights at Freddy’s” (FNAF), sports an unsettling interpretation of the horror video game of the same name. With the movie coming out just in time for Halloween, fans of the decade-old game buzzed with excitement to see their favorite characters on screen. Overall, it would seem the movie was written for longtime fans of the franchise — and that isn’t necessarily to the film’s benefit.
The movie follows Mike Schmidt — Josh Hutcherson — a young man working hard to keep custody of his young sister Abby — Piper Rubio. Meanwhile, Mike is haunted by the abduction of his little brother, Garrett, which tore the Schmidt family apart when Mike was no older than 12.
His job hunt brings Mike to the security guard position at a defunct family restaurant, Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza, with one simple job — keep people out. The restaurant, once a popular family spot and arcade, has been closed since the 1980s. Mike finds the animatronic characters of Freddy Fazbear, Bonnie the Bunny, Chica the Chicken and Foxy the Pirate to be more than metal skeletons in a suit. An air of mystery surrounds the pizza joint, as the disappearance of five children was traced back to the restaurant, to no avail. Mike begins to investigate deeper and deeper into the mysteries of both the restaurant and his personal trauma, unveiling more than he expected.
Long-term fans of the video game and the surrounding lore will appreciate the easter eggs scattered throughout the film. Including character names such as Mike Schmidt, Vanessa and William Afton — who all play instrumental roles in the lore of the franchise. Along with the classic four animatronic characters, a familiar yellow rabbit from the restaurant’s past haunts the halls, waiting to strike fear in the hearts of new victims — and the audience.
While fans have been trying to untangle the strings of what really happened at Freddy Fazbear’s pizzeria for years, the film fails to weave together the clues in a cohesive manner. Many of the callbacks to the film’s source material are vague and lack explanation, serving more as name-drops and fanservice references than actual integral parts of the movie’s plot.
Information that is obvious to long-term fans is not clearly communicated, leaving audiences who may not be as well versed in the storyline from the video games to wonder what exactly they’re missing. With pacing issues and cringe-worthy dialogue in places, “Five Nights At Freddy’s” has left fans wanting more than what they got. Memes and jokes about the film have popped up on social media, mocking some of the lackluster horror aspects of the movie. Some fans are joking that rather than be scary, the animatronics and Mike come together with the “power of friendship” to defeat the villain. Along with this are memes about the “Five Nights at Freddy’s” acronym — FNAF — stating that it instead stands for “Friends never abandon Friends.” While these claims are jokes and memes, their widespread responses are telling of the caliber of horror featured in the film, which is very low.
Overall, the movie was clearly made for viewers who have been fans of the franchise since its inception, but even then some references fell flat, with lines feeling like they were thrown in just so the audience could be excited about references to the source material without actually integrating them cohesively into the plot.
The film hones in on childhood innocence to build its horror, creating a sense of nostalgia both around the setting of the movie — with its old time arcade and Chuck E. Cheese style diner — but also in the references to the video game, with features from youtubers such as Matpat from Game Theory — who helped foster the massive following that the games have. While yes, not perfect, the movie brings the audience away from the mundanity of the security desk they sit at in the games and places them in the middle of a whirlwind fight right alongside the animatronic characters.
The movie is currently available in theaters, as well as streaming exclusively on Peacock.