By: Eliana Melo
Upon watching the Five Nights at Freddy’s movie I wasn’t completely disappointed nor satisfied. I’ve been a fan of the franchise since it came out in 2014, indulging in various aspects of the fandom including lore, music, fan art, animations, and far more vast things that would take too long to explain. For anyone that played the first few games and didn’t really dive deep into the lore beyond the surface, this movie is a pretty decent application of the games into a simple film. But for long-time fans like me, who know the ins-and-outs of the lore and fan-theories, this movie is slightly a disaster. It has been accepted by many fans that the lore is mainly theorized but basic things have been changed just for the purpose of adding a decent plot into the film. There are spoilers for the movie and the games ahead, so beware!
The first gripe I have is with the protagonist, Mike Schmidt, who lives with his younger sister Abby and lost a younger brother, Garrett, prior to Abby’s birth. This small family is clearly a spin-off of the in-game Afton family, which include Michael Afton – who later on also takes the name Mike Schmidt – an unnamed younger brother, and their sister Elizabeth Afton. Both Mikes lose their younger brother, the in-game version losing him at his own hand, but both are overwhelmed by guilt and this leads to consistent nightmares. I don’t personally have an issue with the movie separating the Schmidt family from the Afton family as a whole, but what I do take issue with is our co-protagonist, Vanessa. Anyone who hasn’t played the games past the fourth would just see her as a new character for the plot, but she has been featured in one of the most recent games, Five Nights at Freddy’s: Security Breach. This game takes place far into the future, more than 30 years after the first game, which makes her appearance in the movie almost nonsensical. The main plot-twist in the movie is that Vanessa is the daughter of the main antagonist of the movie, William Afton, and knows that her father was the cause of Mike’s nightmares. This does not make sense at all since Vanessa shows up far later in the game timeline, and has no relation to William Afton. She was just added to the plot for the purpose of moving the story along.
This brings me to my next point: alternate universes. The alternate universe has been a very popular concept in media recently, as prominently seen in the Spiderverse. Scott Cawthon, the creator of FNAF, has been known for stating that the book universe is completely different from the game universe, so I wouldn’t be surprised if this was also the case for the movie. A fan theory that sparked immediately after the movie aired was the relationship between the book/game characters and the movie characters. The book and game feature a character, Henry Emily, who is William Afton’s business partner; William kidnaps and kills Henry’s child and their relationship is tainted. Some theorize that rather than William being Mike’s father, Henry is his father in the movie universe. This is theorized due to the fact that a man that looks similar to Mike’s father can be seen building the endoskeleton for an animatronic in the background of an informational video tape; Henry Emily is the mechanic for the animatronics in the games and books. I think that this theory is reasonable since the kidnapping of Garrett in the movie is quite similar to the kidnapping of Charlie Emily, Henry’s daughter, in the game.
The movie itself, besides the lore aspect, was quite enjoyable; it kind of had that “power of friendship” plotline and it lacked some horror which was slightly disappointing since the game is a horror game and a majority of the longtime fans are now adults. Scott Cawthon hyped up the springlock scene and painted it to be very gorey when in fact it wasn’t. I totally understand the lack of gore in the movie, though, since the most recent games have been very different from the original ones, mainly being marketed towards children. But I do wish there were more gameplay-like scenes; most of the scenes in the restaurant consist of the characters roaming around the building rather than staying in the office like in the games. Of course, they shouldn’t be office-bound for the entire film, but the idea of being able to roam around with killer animatronics around was odd. Abby Schmidt is kind of her older brother’s guardian angel, as she’s the only child around besides the dead children in the animatronics, and they form a bond with her. One thing I particularly enjoyed was seeing the animatronics acting like kids. They built a fort with Abby and had fun dancing, drawing, and even tickling Abby, which I find silly since robots from the 80s don’t really seem to have articulate fingers. Some reviews from fans seemed to despise it, but I enjoyed it. I do wish that the robots acted like killers more on their own behalf rather than being under William’s control, but it does make sense.
The movie is filled with plenty of easter eggs, some for surface-level fans and some for long-time fans. There are too many to get into, but the main one I really enjoyed was the inclusion of Sparky, an animatronic dog that doesn’t show up in the games but when just the first game was out, many believed this hoax that a robotic dog could be seen in the darkness of the game and that it would be featured in future games. It never did and the dog was just photoshopped into the game screenshots. The movie finally brings closure to this rumor, naming a diner that a beloved FNAF creator, MatPat, works in after the fanmade animatronic. Sparky’s animatronic is also finally shown, similar to the fanmade design, sitting in the backrooms of the main restaurant, along with other easter egg characters such as Shadow Freddy and a doll animatronic from the books. A popular FNAF gameplay Youtuber, CoryxKenshin, also made a cameo in the movie, playing a taxi driver that picks up Abby and the towering Golden Freddy. There’s more silly easter eggs scattered throughout the film, such as the Balloon Boy, but I’ll leave that for future viewers to find on their own.
Five Nights at Freddy’s ends with the vengeful spirit of Golden Freddy watching William Afton wither in pain, closing with the most popular song by The Living Tombstone, which is also the title of the movie. I enjoyed that so much since it was unexpected considering how upbeat the song is. The song fades into a music box tune that can be heard in the second FNAF game, and a message that spells out “Come find me.” Matthew Lillard, who plays William Afton, stated that the franchise would include three movies, and this ending continues the saga of FNAF, the music box hinting towards the second movie taking place during the second game, which doesn’t really make sense as a theorist but I guess it makes sense chronologically. We’re likely to see more of Matthew Lillard in the franchise, but not much can be said about Josh Hutcherson and other stars at the moment. Lillard is guaranteed, though, because the spiteful WIlliam Afton always comes back.