Five Nights At Freddy’s is an adaptation of the wildly popular video game series. Director Emma Tammi wrote the screenplay with Seth Cuddeback and the horror franchise’s creator, Scott Cawthon. With fan-favorite genre studio Blumhouse producing, the film has a lot going for it from the get-go. But it also has a lot to live up to, and even the best intentions can go awry. Is the movie a worthy cinematic version of a trip to Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza?
Mike (Josh Hutcherson) is the caretaker to his much younger sister, Abby (Piper Rubio). After losing his mall security job due to a misunderstanding that ended violently, he becomes desperate for money. Making his personal life even worse is Aunt Jane (Mary Stuart Masterson), who is seeking custody of Abby, believing Mike to be unfit. To keep up with bills, Mike takes a job with poor pay and no benefits. Said position is as the night security officer at a closed-down family entertainment center that served pizza.
Mike doesn’t take his overnight position very seriously. He intentionally falls asleep to remember what the person who kidnapped his brother decades ago looks like. His dream theory memories are interrupted when police officer Vanessa (Elizabeth Lail) pays a visit. She gives Mike the history of the place, which involves kidnapped children. This dovetails with Mike being forced to bring Abby to the pizzeria. Here, Freddy, Bonnie, Foxy, Chica, and Mr. Cupcake come to life and play with the girl. If they are so nice, then why did they murder Abby’s babysitter? What do they want with Abby, and what is their connection to Mike and his long-lost brother?
“…Freddy, Bonnie, Foxy, Chica, and Mr. Cupcake come to life and play with the girl. If they are so nice, then why did they murder Abby’s babysitter?”
Five Nights At Freddy’s is an adaptation in the truest sense. The screenwriters take pieces of the games’ lore and use them as a guide to craft a new version of the major events. As such, many character arcs or incidents will be familiar to players. But they are rearranged here to tell a self-contained narrative. It is also convoluted, as several of these elements are spread across more than one game. Some threads feel lost for long periods. The Aunt Jane stuff only exists to up the body count for the killer animatronics, as the custody bit takes a back seat.
However, like the excellent M3GAN, Tammi takes time to establish the characters, their relationships, and arcs. Mike gets frustrated with Abby, specifically her habit of not eating. There’s a remarkable scene with Mike and his sister’s therapist (Tadasay Young). The conversation about the power drawings have for children feels natural. This grounding of the characters adds to the danger factor later on, as the world depicted is more or less the real one.
"…offers families the chance to be scared together, and when it works, it is both creepy and fun."