If you’re already a Five Night’s at Freddy’s franchise fan … congratulations! You’re going to have so much fun during this shift at Freddy Fazbear’s.
It is absolutely a movie that was made with the franchise’s existing fanbase in mind heavily, a fact that pays off if what you’re hoping to see is a movie that feels like the existing franchise. Of course, Scott Cawthon’s involvement in production is certainly a factor that contributes to the movie being a successful video game to live action adaptation (something becoming increasingly uncommon). It embraces the campiness and silliness that already existed and made sure to deliver a light-heartedness appropriate for the world while also delivering on the darker, scarier themes.
Is it the kind of horror movie that will nest a heavy, persistent unsettling feeling in your stomach? Most certainly not, nor is it the kind where blood will splatter gratuitously across the screen, and I’d be surprised to hear anyone say it’s going to keep them up at night. However, there are a few successful jump scares and suspense building that manage to raise the hair on your neck. And with a franchise like Five Nights at Freddy’s, it’s always been about the ambience and the animatronics, two aspects that are above and beyond expectations in the movie adaptation, respecting the source material from which it comes and embracing its potential to bring it to screen.
It’s impossible to write this review without honing in on the animatronics created by the iconic Jim Henson’s Creature Shop. Jason Blum has repeatedly spoken on how much work went into every detail of the animatronics, and every hour spent on it was well worth the effort. The textures and details in Freddy and his friends are truly intricate works of art, visuals matched by the unsettling movements they’re capable of. If you grew up in the ’80s or ’90s (and even the early 2000s to an extent) there is something deeply nostalgic about characters like Freddy, Bonnie, Foxy, Chica, and Cupcake. Whether it’s watching Sesame Street or a similar program or a birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese, seeing this type of animatronic so lifelike is truly just special. I’m about 99% sure a hug from Bonnie would make my entire year.
But what good are stunning animatronics without scenery to match? Thankfully, the set design for Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzeria is every bit a work of art as the animatronics and I would honestly rent it as an AirBNB for a fun weekend. From the patterned carpet and walls, to the character themed booths and items strewn about and to the crappy old security screens, the world building is impeccable and director Emma Tammi took every opportunity to use and showcase as much of the central location as possible.
The plot is respectful to the established lore while successfully adapting such a complex and intricate story into a singular movie (though I certainly hope there will be more. As a Security Breach fan I can’t help but want to see animatronics of those versions). While I do think there was some dialogue that left a bit to be desired, the pacing was spot on and I think the plot (though intricate and multi-faceted) will be easy to follow even for non-established fans. Overall, the script feels strong for a video game adaptation, certainly invoking feelings of familiarity and ensuring the hardcore fans feel loved. After all, it is a movie eight years in the making.
The cast that brings the characters to screen all provide compelling performances that will have the audience connected to them in no time, though the new security guard Mike is certainly front and center — rightfully so. Facing mental health issues caused by trauma, the responsibility of raising his younger sister, and an impending custody battle with their vicious aunt, Mike just can’t win from seemingly all angles. Josh Hutcherson was a fantastic choice for Mike’s casting, providing a charming, sometimes comedic, and often complex performance. As for the rest of the cast — Elizabeth Lail is always charming, a fact that continues to be true in Five Nights at Freddy’s as Vanessa, while Piper Rubio’s Abby could win anyone over.
And come on. Matthew Lillard in a nostalgic horror movie. What could possibly go wrong with that equation?
If you’re not already a fan of the franchise, you might struggle to enjoy this one, especially if you like your horror to have deeper meanings and explore heavier themes, or if you’re hoping for an outright gorefest. While there are certainly complex themes woven throughout the plot and the characters’ storylines and plenty of horrific moments and deaths, it’s still not the kind of movie that’s trying to make some larger statement outside of “Have fun!”, and it’s not trying to make anyone puke into their pizza box.
To some people it will simply feel like too much plot. To fans of the franchise, that’s exactly what we want. If you think it’s weird and confusing … well, it’s supposed to be!
Freddy and his friends are dying to meet you. Will you survive five nights?
Five Nights at Freddy’s is playing now in theaters and streaming exclusively on Peacock. This one was definitely a lot of fun on the big screen, but viewing again on Peacock after adds an extra bit of fun for the hardcore fans who want to pause and comb the screen for Easter eggs.