Ty Reilly ‘26 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
Imagine your career being a point-and-click horror game located at a haunted arcade where you are paid 4 dollars an hour, monitoring security cameras to keep out animatronics that are trying to kill you from midnight until 6 A.M. This is your job in the first game of the series imagined and created by Scott Cawthon, released in 2014 after which came many games, books, and a film adaptation recently released in theaters. Before the first Five Nights at Freddy’s game was released, most fans of the series had an expectation of a Saw-like recreation of the canon series compared to the game, which in its story featured gruesome events but had little-to-no actual on-screen violence. Instead, the first few installments of the series, just like the film, use audio cues and imagery as an advantage of the environment. The director uses ambience in the score and lighting to produce a sinister yet in-the-background of our antagonist and to provide a sense of terror in the viewers that help build suspense that the main characters in the film are yet to recognize.
The film follows Micheal, or Mike, Schmidt (Josh Hutcherson), who at the opening of the film, informs us we are set in the year 2000 (13 years after the original events of the video game canon) as well as 13 years after the disappearance of the children in the movies’ timeline. The movie opens with several of the pixilated mini games that appear throughout the many games in the series. These mini games show the viewer different events that occur during the story, allowing players to theorize about the overall story of the series throughout the years. As the movie progresses, we learn that Mike’s younger brother was kidnapped by the owner of Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzeria, William Afton, who is also the man who hired him at the start of the film. William is wearing a purple tie at the beginning, foreshadowing to him being Afton. At twelve years old, Mike lost his brother after being asked to watch him. Mike is caring for his younger sister, Abby, who is quiet and loves to draw pictures. She believes that her imaginary friends are the characters at Freddy’s and has a deep connection with the animatronics at the pizzeria especially once Mike gives in and takes her there to play.
Other than the connections between the PC game releases, the film itself has fantastic use of lighting, set design, and cinematography. The cinematographer uses flickering lights to represent aggression or an immediate threat to Mike, which is why throughout the film, the breaker has to be reset when the animatronics get “out of whack.” Mike’s dreams are utilized very frequently in the film as a way to communicate his deepest desires and somehow communicate with the animatronics. His obsession with his dreams are connected to his want to change the past, which is a constant theme in the series.
The connections to the game series could be debated upon for hours. There are many parallels from the plot of the games but not an exact replica due to the fact there are over four decades of in-depth storyline in the canon. As the principal characters go we have: a loss of a middle child too soon, an eldest brother that feels responsible, and a youngest sibling who is obsessed with animatronics. All six games get a chance to have scene parallels or specific characters shine in the film adaptation. Mike has Balloon Boy follow him around, jump scaring him. The film changes all of the animatronic eyes to red except Springtrap (Yellow Bunny), who is known as the most threatening throughout the series. When William Afton, the owner of the pizzeria, originally hired Mike, he said that “the electricity acts up sometimes.” This is a reference to the first game in which safety is reliant on keeping track of your electricity usage. There is also a sign in Mike’s office that says, “It’s Me,” and Freddy flashes on the screen many times throughout the film. This mirrors the hallucinations you have while you are playing the first game.
The set for this film was a bit of a mixed bag in relation to the consistency of the canon. The film is a mixture of all of the games as far as plot, set, situations, and even character wise. The restaurant matches the most recent game in the series. However, Mike’s office matches the first game exactly, from the same televisions to the trash that is left on his desk. The set designer included many easter eggs throughout the film that lovers of the series catch such as an employee of the month chart including the Youtubers that helped the series rise to fame (many of those Youtubers actually have cameos in the film). A constant element throughout the film is definitely its time based nature. The film is reliant on timing and a large amount of the tension is caused by a lack of time. The most interesting parallel is that the man introduced to the player in the first game on the phone is the same man that gets killed in a chair at the start of the film. The scenario with Foxie was taken right out of the game dialogue. William Afton was put into a closet after being crushed by his own suit, but every fan of the canon knows that Afton is never actually dead. In the film right before he is crushed by the spring locks he says, “I always come back,” and at the very end of the credits there is a voice that says “Come find me.” Could it be William Afton?