Starting as an indie horror game on Aug. 8, 2014, the “Five Nights at Freddy’s” franchise evolved into a big-screen hit, grossing over $80 million domestically on opening weekend and an estimated $220 million worldwide.
Scott Cawthon’s video game series of the nightmarish Chuck E. Cheese spinoff spawned a massive dedicated fanbase, becoming an instant cult classic. The movie reflects this; instead of branching out to capture a wide audience, the movie sticks with its twisted source material and properly pays tribute to its community.
The movie is told from the perspective of Mike, a troubled security guard desperate for work to care for his much younger sister, Abby. After he’s fired from his mall security job, a security gig for the night shift at Freddy’s is his only option. Although hesitant to take it because it would leave Abby alone at home, Mike ultimately says yes as his aunt closes in on suing him for custody.
Each night at the pizzeria becomes progressively stranger. On the second night, a police officer named Vanessa visits, finding Mike asleep on the job and his arm bludgeoned. She introduces Mike to the animatronics — Freddy, Chica, Bonnie and Foxy — and shows him around the place before the shift’s end.
The movie maintained an eerie tone throughout. Something always feels a little off, like the animatronics could snap at any moment.
REVIEW: ‘Attack on Titan’ finale
Fans who have played the game know the feeling — the game’s horror always goes deeper than jump scares. The unsettling ambiance and uncertainty of when the next murderer would show up at your door is the selling point.
This uncertainty is cranked up to 11 for the next two nights. With Abby’s babysitter missing, Mike brings his sister with him to work. Mike, having fallen asleep again at his desk, wakes up to his sister screaming in the lobby with the animatronics surrounding her. To his surprise, Abby befriends the machines, leaving Mike scared and confused as they drive home.
This all comes after a break-in the day before where the perpetrators face gruesome deaths at the hands of the mascots. It leaves a great contrast between the friendliness toward Abby and the violence toward the trespassers. The animatronics only have one consistency — they each have a mind of their own.
Night 4 sees Vanessa, Mike, Abby and the animatronics hanging out at the pizzeria. No attacks, no violence, only an accident where Abby shocks herself with Bonnie’s electric guitar. Everything seems peachy, which makes it all the more worrying.
Why do these giant metal death machines, who never seem to show remorse in the games or to the trespassers in the movie, act so kind to Abby? What made them so violent? Are there deeper motivations at play? Unanswered questions add to the uncertainty of the film. The audience never knows when someone might snap.
“Five Nights at Freddy’s” answers most of its questions in the final act, but the film isn’t fully wrapped up when the credits roll. Fittingly, this also matches the games, which always leave more questions than answers.
While plot is not the movie’s strong point, it doesn’t need to be. Neither does the dialogue nor the acting, although Piper Rubio did a good job playing Abby, portraying both childlike innocence and the ornery younger sibling. The movie does what it needs to: pay homage to its fanbase.