I laughed, cried and actually threw up after watching Five Nights at Freddy’s.
Co-written by Scott Cawthon, the original creator of the Five Nights at Freddy’s video game, the movie is jam-packed with references to the gameplay and online fandom. The film is a collection of theories, easter eggs and cameos, including those of YouTubers MatPat and CoryxKenshin, that left audience members gasping in shock.
It’s evident the film wasn’t made for wider commercial reach. However, mainly appealing to the game’s fanbase limits its entertainment value for people unfamiliar with the franchise.
While I appreciate the clear care and attention filmmakers took to indulge longtime fans, it drags down the storyline. I know that if I wasn’t familiar with the lore, the film would not have left an impression on me.
The audience was met with a somewhat predictable storyline as the film began. Josh Hutcherson plays Mike Schmidt, a struggling security guard who takes up the night shift at an abandoned pizza funhouse. As Mike works more nights at his new job, sinister intentions by ghost children and animatronics are revealed, culminating in new discoveries about Mike’s past. Just as in the original video game, the audience views the story through Mike’s perspective, but this time the stakes feel lower.
Five Nights at Freddy’s, likely due to its PG-13 rating, feels less like a horror film than it does a character study of Mike. The jumpscares and gore synonymous with the franchise are sidelined for a subplot where Mike’s guardianship over his younger sister Abby Schmidt is threatened.
Vanessa Shelly, played by Elizabeth Lail, feels more like a guide to understanding the lore references rather than a fleshed out character. Her role in the film felt unnecessary, as the characters could have figured out the mystery behind the animatronics on their own. Vanessa, a police officer, could be easily overlooked in the film.
The movie also underutilizes the animatronics, instead highlighting the “Missing Children Incident” made prevalent by online theorists. This lack of focus causes the reveal of antagonist William Afton, played by horror film veteran Matthew Lillard, to be seriously downplayed.
Highlighting the role of Abby, played by Piper Rubio, helped the plot gain a foothold. In a movie that emphasizes the ghosts of children over the robot animals the game is known for, it’s helpful to have a child’s perspective in the story. However, Abby’s role felt one dimensional as the film progressed.
The plot of Five Nights at Freddy’s is a weak vessel for the iconic lore of the franchise. The film alienated new fans because it rehashed lore without explanation. Only longtime fans could enjoy the film without feeling dragged down by the plot.
Despite this, I immensely enjoyed watching the movie. Audience members gasped, laughed and screamed in tandem, and this solidarity made watching the film electric. Although I did become nauseous when the end credits began and the opening notes of “Five Nights at Freddy’s” by The Living Tombstone began playing.
This movie was by and largely made for fans of the game and lore. Funny, serious and sometimes silly, Five Nights at Freddy’s is a must-watch for fans of the game.