I am not a horror game kind of person. Don't get me wrong, I love a good story and psychological thriller, but jumpscares are something my heart just cannot handle. But strangely enough, I've always had a bit of a soft spot for the Five Nights at Freddy's series - enjoyed through YouTube's King of FNAF, Markiplier, and the Theorist himself, MatPat. I think the series is interesting and has some great creepy vibes, and the characters and their piecemeal stories are fun to explore and try to piece together.
So, when I heard they were making a movie out of the game series, I was leery. There've been rumors of a FNAF movie for many years, but between production issues and pandemics, it's never really taken off until now with Blumhouse's production. Since my partner and I are both fans of the series, we decided to see the movie when it premiered on October 27.
Was it perfect? No. Was it a terrifying gorefest like most people expected it to be? No, not really - though there were a few good gory moments. Was it sillier than I was expecting? Absolutely. I think that might have been what made it so charming. The Five Nights at Freddy's movie was a campy, B-movie celebration of the games and their fandom that even a scaredy-cat like me could enjoy, full of great cameos, Easter eggs, and fantastic puppeteering that brought the whole thing together to be delightfully spooky.
To start with, the movie balances fun nods to the original game fandom while still delivering enough information such that complete strangers to the series can still enjoy it for what it is. I adored the 8-bit style opening sequence that mirrored minigames from FNAF 2 and the appearances of several fan-favorite theory characters - including a famous FNAF 1 hoax story character, Sparky the Dog - in the backgrounds and sides of scenes. It was fun for me and my partner to smack each others' shoulders and point every time we noticed something new. Oh, and the cameos from various YouTubers? Super fun. They felt surprisingly natural, which was nice, and the creators themselves did a great job acting their roles.
At the same time, I didn't feel like I needed to play the games to understand the basic premise - a creepy 80s pizzeria is haunted by ghost children in animatronics because of a deranged serial killer and Mike's job is to avoid them. The plot, loose and simplistic as it was, was easy to follow and made it easy to focus on the character acting and the real stars of the show, the animatronics themselves.
To switch gears and talk about that for a moment, I was floored when I learned that the Jim Henson Creature Company was the one making the animatronics. Even more impressively, all of the featured animatronics - Freddy, Bonnie, Chica, and Foxy, among others - were physically built and fully functional, both as suits and as standalone robots, just like in the games! How terrifying must that have been for the puppeteers, though?
Back to the characters, now, I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by the heartfelt performances given by the entire cast. Everyone clearly cared about the roles they were playing and wanted to do them justice. Honestly, it looked like everyone had a great time filming as well! Josh Hutcherson gives a solid, believable performance as Mike Schmit, leaving you feeling for this poor traumatized man who just wants to protect his family. Matthew Lillard is, to no one's surprise, a brilliant villain - minimal spoilers, but fans of Scream will probably get a kick out of his performance. Piper Rubio makes a fantastic Abby - I loved her simple wonder and delight, and equally found her treatment of her "friends" classically horror movie creepy in the best way. A slightly more surprising standout performance was that of Grant Feely, previously well-known for playing young Luke in the Obi-Wan series but playing a ghost child in this production. His performance was delightfully sinister and foreboding; I was excited and engaged every time he came on screen.
Overall, the FNAF movie was a fun experience that gave off the feeling of being an 80s or early 90s slasher film. It's campy, and the plot is a bit ridiculous, but you can't help but have a great time jumping at every sound and watching people get mauled by massive killer ghost robots. I would very happily watch another few movies like this one, especially if Blumhouse keeps this same level of respect for and attention to the original game fandom.
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