Five Nights at Freddy’s debuted last week as the largest Blumhouse opening, both globally and domestically. But its reception from fans and critics has been a divisive one.
For anyone unaware of the source material, Five Nights at Freddy’s began as an indie horror game created by Scott Cawthon and released in 2014. It quickly gained a cult following after being played by popular YouTubers after its release. The subsequent sequels to the game came out at a relatively rapid rate, which expanded the lore and fan base just as rapidly.
Now the Five Nights at Freddy’s franchise stretches across games, books, and comics. And what started as a horror game with simple gameplay and jump scares from run down animatronics, is now a franchise with incredibly expansive and deep lore. The fascination with the characters and animatronics created by Scott Cawthon has now led to a feature film co-written by Cawthon himself.
The movie currently sits at a $78 million domestic box office return and $130 million globally. And on a reported budget of $20 million, this movie has been a massive hit. But despite its impressive box office numbers, many viewers and fans on social media have voiced their disappointment and complaints. With some complaining that the movie wasn’t “lore accurate” or faithful to the source material, despite it being co-written by the franchise’s creator.
I went into this movie as a person who never played the games, read the books or comics, or even watched other people play the game. But before going to the movie, I did watch numerous recaps on the series as a whole to get a feel of what the story was going to be. And based off the limited but comprehensive knowledge of the franchise, I had a pretty good time with the movie.
Both the special and practical effects used to create the five animatronics were incredibly impressive. You can tell how much love and dedication went into making them. The set of Freddy Fazzbear’s Pizzeria is also very detailed and it does look as if you were to take the setting of the first game and placed it into reality.
The movie’s lead, Josh Hutcherson, gives a captivating and memorable performance as Mike Schmidt. His co-star Elizabeth Lail, who plays Vanessa Monroe, also gives an excellent performance and serves as Mike’s guardian angel and educator in all things Freddy. But the standout performance for me was Piper Rubio’s portrayal of Abby Schmidt, Mike’s younger sister who plays a crucial role in unraveling the mysteries of Fazzbear’s Pizzeria.
Story wise, I think the movie acts as a really great way to introduce newcomers to the franchise and its lore while also rewarding veterans of the franchise for their pre-gained knowledge. And it’s because of all the details and easter eggs that newcomers might want to learn more about the expansive lore. But because the movie isn’t specifically catered to long-time fans of the franchise, I think that is where some of the criticisms come from.
The horror aspect of the movie also isn’t its main strong suit, despite it being a horror movie. It works more as a mystery-thriller with horror aspects rather than a horror movie at its core. And for me this works, because from what I saw before going into the movie, the horror of the games relies mainly on jump scares. So to have a whole movie doing jump scare after jump scare in order to be more like the games sounds derivative and boring.
But for the scenes of the movie that do lean more into the horror side of the franchise, they do a pretty good job. Mechanical animatronics possessed by dead children going on a killing spree of delinquents who break into the pizzeria felt both terrifying and satisfying to watch. And while I can see where some of the criticisms of the movie not being “scary” enough are coming from, I think it’s also important to remember where this franchise is now.
It’s no longer an indie-horror game that relies on jump scares and spooky looking animatronics to get the player’s heart pumping. It is an expansive franchise that’s produced at a much larger scale than when it began and has a large fan base to back it. And while this movie is by no means perfect, I don’t think it’s as bad of a movie or an adaptation as some people are saying. I think it knows its strengths and plays into them very well while also experimenting with a new form of storytelling that it hasn’t tried before. And for its first theatrical outing, it does a surprisingly fantastic job at what it wanted to do.
Even for me, someone who was never into this franchise or even the horror genre in general, I genuinely enjoyed this movie. I had fun watching it and I had fun learning more about the established world that is Five Nights at Freddy’s. And I think when watching a movie about a run down pizzeria being haunted by dead kids in animatronic suits, it’s important to have fun with it. So whether you’re new to the franchise or a long-time fan of it, I think there’s something here for everyone, and I honestly can’t wait to see where it goes from here.