In the year 2000, a desperate young man takes a job at an infamous, long-abandoned pizzeria with a dark past, bringing his little sister along. As they uncover the restless spirits and vengeful animatronics within, they must confront their own haunting memories. With the help of an enigmatic police officer, they battle to save their souls and unravel the sinister secrets lurking at Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza.
Five Nights at Freddy’s the video game has a reputation for scaring the hell out of its gamers. It’s currently on its eight iteration, with the latest schedule to drop later this year. The movie version includes among its writers, the game’s creator Scott Cawthorn, so some kind of authenticity and fidelity to its source material is guaranteed.
Watching FNaF in a movie theater is akin to seeing The Rocky Horror Picture Show for the first time in a midnight screening. The movie anticipates and demands an immersive experience from its audience- the kind that revels and bounds with its kitsch source. Seen alone, either movie is nothing special, but with the proper devotees, hooting, hollering, reciting, singing, high-fiving the first appearance of popular lines, characters and scenes, it’s a blast for the faithful. That’s why Universal released FNaF to its streaming platform, Peacock the same day. The studio couldn’t resist the double dip, the uninitiated virgin be damned.
That’s why the movie version seems so stripped down, almost bland, yet quaintly retro. Everything is merged from the game iterations- plots, characters, even the psycho traumas. It’s aspires only to be an immersive fan event- the Taylor Swift Eras experience for horror fans and gamers. And since the players are mainly tweens, it has to be PG-13, to hit it’s sweet spot demographics. The older hard core Freddy-ites got the toe dipping Nic Cage version, with the FNaF inspired Willy’s Wonderland from 2021.
If you experienced the animatronic weirdness of eating pizza at a Chuck E. Cheese birthday party you know the AI experience the creators are intending, the daydreaming on both good and bad robots, that kind of proto Disney ride experience created in children who have seen either the movie or television series Westworld one too many times. Overlap that with a good dose of psycho trauma from the guilt of watching a sibling being kidnapped from a vacation resort and you will get the mind fuck Groundhog Day plot and experience that the movie version is trying to recreate in its younger but maturing audience’s minds. The movie tries to be psycho therapy for the emotionally scarred and the horror lover, never mind that it’s just feeding that addiction. Ah, Capitalistic consumerism at its finest—creating the trauma so it can sell itself as the cure.
The animatronic monsters are faithful recreations of their sources built by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop. They are the film’s major highlight and achievement. The slow reveal is intended to rev up the fans, at the annoyance of the casual unaware viewer. The franchise has a massive amount of fan lore that is admirably whittled down to the essential game playing archetypes that a non-fan needs to know. It’s pretty plot heavy for is first hour, a weakness that is hidden with good actors in every part.
The director, Emma Tammi has a good eye for striking visuals, storytelling and layering emotional horror. For a first part of the FNaF movie franchise it’s a good setup for future harder rated iterations. The family dynamics are honest and sincere enough. The gorier sequels are being saved for when it’s core audience grows up and can legally see them. Right now, the psycho trauma will have to be enough.
As a gateway horror film aimed squarely at a younger tween audience, it’s a home run. As a more sophisticated horror film for older fans who have been playing FNaF games for the past decade, it may be a swing and a miss.
Five Nights at Freddys gets a 3.0 out of 5 or a B.
- Scott Cawthon
- Seth Cuddeback
- Emma Tammi
- Scott Cawthon
- Chris Lee Hill
- Tyler MacIntyre
Based onFive Nights at Freddy’s
by Scott Cawthon
- Scott Cawthon
- Jason Blum
- Andrew Wesman
- William Paley
- Blumhouse Productions
- Scott Cawthon Productions
- October 25, 2023(United Kingdom)
- October 27, 2023(United States)