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The Five Nights At Freddy’s Movie – Spoiler Free Fan Review

Fnaf movie trailer image
FIVE NIGHTS AT FREDDY’S, from Universal Pictures and Blumhouse in association with Striker Entertainment.

FNAF Movie Opening Night

Waiting in line for the Five Nights at Freddy’s movie and I am sitting behind two young guys who have a laptop open and are looking up the FNAF “lore” to give context to what they are about to see. “Reddit will know.” one of them says to the other. But having been in this fandom since August 2014, I know that reddit will not know. In fact, there is no agreed on consensus on almost any aspect of this series. That is the landscape this movie emerges into and it is critical to understand to truly appreciate what we are looking at.

Most critics will approach the movie the way they approach any Halloween horror movie release, looking at it from the perspective of accessibility to audiences, storytelling and the quality of its scares, that is certainly a tried and true formula for pumping out horror reviews, but I would argue that in this instance, this approach is flawed and will never quite touch the depths of the author and producer’s intentions. Treating the FNAF movie as an isolated piece of media is treating part of a series as an isolated work divorced from its surroundings.

Watching the movie I could see how Scott and the others who worked on it endeavored to disguise the shape of the narrative as something simple, something with clear and familiar beats that movie goers could understand. Troubled man picks up job, has responsibilities to his sibling, historic murders and spooky robots. However, as someone deeply entrenched in the fandom and theories, I want to try and explain to you what it felt like for one of the fans to enjoy this work.


Fans approach this movie with some baseline understandings of what they are about to see, of the characters who are at play. We are used to Scott subverting expectations and pulling the rug out from beneath us. We are also used to Scott using alternate continuities to shed light upon the series he created.

Scott himself has discussed this branching out into other continuities in the past as below.

“The truth is that after a while lore can become so dense that there isn’t room for a story anymore. Another truth is that what makes for a good game doesn’t necessarily make for a good book. Sometimes a timeline gets so full that the only way to tell a real story is have the story set in a different timeline, an alternate universe, a different location, or perhaps from a vantage point that isn’t entirely what it appears to be.”

The movie is another version of this ethos, where characters are another version of the story. However, Scott is notorious for this vantage point twisting, what appears to be the truth often is not at all the case. For instance, in The Silver Eyes, the first book novel trilogy, the series began with Charlie, who appeared to be a normal girl and relative of the Fazbear’s founders going back to Freddy Fazbear’s and Hurricane Utah. However, within two books we found out that she was actually a robot and finds herself up against another robot who is a clone of her (her adult self) who is powered by the spirit of William Afton’s deceased daughter.

As you can see, things can go unexpected places, and I feel like this movie is certainly no different. Let me give a little context. Fans are going into this movie not sure if Mike Schmidt is William Afton’s son, regardless of whether it is or is not confirmed in the movie, does this mean that there isn’t some INCREDIBLY convoluted and crazy plot underpinning the solution? No. Other franchises give straightforward answers to straightforward questions, in this franchise it is always more complex, there could be far deeper factors at play, it could be anything at all. The story of FNAF is a puzzle, and acknowledging this as an inherent part of the series is absolutely baseline to really giving it a fair shot in criticism.


From a more conventional look at the movie, the cinematography is lovely, with beautiful shots and thoughtful framing, and the story is told clearly and in a way that makes optimal use of the time they are able to utilize. It could have been five hours long and I would have been interested the entire time. Unfortunately, when seeking to establish a new viewer base this kind of long attention cannot be relied upon. The director shows an almost tender attention to the human characters and this is important as they are critical to the series as much as its iconic animatronics. Anyone complaining the animatronics did not receive sufficient screen time has not understood the fundamental story underpinning the series (a forgivable sin given that at this point it sprawls 13 games and at least 28 books.) The FNAF series is about more than just the animatronics, it is about the history that created them, the legacy of the video game industry and the rise and fall of a business enterprise, replete with its inherent criticisms of capitalism and retail work culture. It is also quite centrally about families and the theme of family, something which is very close to Scott Cawthon’s heart. Some of the more obscure of these themes are not overt within the movie itself and therefore could easily and understandably be missed by a newcomer to the series, however I felt that family was still at the heart of what we saw. Overall however, I feel that the movie is rendered more shallow by not understanding the richness of the source material.

Steve raglan from the fnaf movie


The actors do a fantastic job of portraying their respective characters, from the troubled and temper prone Mike (Josh Hutcherson) to the mysterious Steve Raglan (Matthew Lillard) to the supporting cast doing a great deal to cast light on the shape of the setting and threats therein. Lillard in particular has a challenging task of conveying a multi layered character and accomplishes this extremely well. As a long time fan, I will be thinking about this performance for the months to come and find myself grateful for the attention paid to a truly complex character. Screen time was limited for some characters, but I do not think this diminished their impact at all, merely heightened the threat they represented. There were certainly audible responses in my theatre when the important twists were revealed.

The fandom also comes into this movie expecting cameos from their favourite creators who helped to popularize and grow the series over the years, and Scott Cawthon has not forgotten those who helped him, inviting the major figures who devoted their time to the movie to take part in it. There are plenty of surprises and delights for fans waiting for this to happen, and it simply adds to the feeling of the movie as a celebration of the game series. However, unlike many other series out there, the treatment of these cameos is treated with nuance and subtlety and they could be overlooked by the casual viewer. There is an intimacy to this movie and how it handles fan references, with almost none of the toe curling nostalgia bait moments that are so familiar to modern viewers. There are no random confusing elements thrown in without context or narrative purpose simply to serve as cheap relatability. The movie feels loved, and the nods to the fandom in turn feel loving rather than a corporate lever pull.

The Animatronics

The animatronics are imbued with incredible life and character by the Jim Henson creature workshop, and other characters who show up later are given this same incredible attention to detail. The animatronics were quite simply breathtaking to me as a fan of the series. The FNAF fandom is known for its extensive fan animation community, with incredibly professional level animators creating content for the fans to enjoy, but even with this history, I felt like this movie breathed life into the animatronics on a level I have never seen before. They felt solid and real (thanks in no small part to the practical effects employed for their creation) but also warm and approachable. The viewers find themselves completely able to understand why these strange machines captured the attention of children historically, and to me this is critical. Too many people misunderstand the animatronics and when creating their own versions make them just openly strange or ugly, with shallow appeal, just spooky handpuppets and a monster of the week. Five Nights at Freddys is not afraid to humanise the animatronics and warm the audience to them, even if it appears to diminsh their value a little as flat jumpscare fodder. They are ultimately victims, and the movie is not afraid of this either.

the animatronics from the fnaf movie

The soundtrack is fun and the sound design is competent, giving memorable and familiar songs to help reinforce the era of the movie without turning it into a jukebox musical. There is restraint shown in the context of the songs and the choices made were thoughtful and relevant for a track list. The post credits even have something special for those looking for some further puzzles to unpick in the series.


Overall, I could not recommend the movie more highly to fans. As long as they approach it with the understanding that we are looking not at some grand reveal of all the mysteries of the decade long game series but a new alternate look at potentials and the characters we know and love, they will draw endless value from it. At my showing there were many other people in costume (alongside myself) and the response from the fans that were there was warm and excited. Scott Cawthon said the following.

“Going into this next week, I want you all to know that I have literally one thing on my mind, and that’s hoping that the fanbase enjoys this movie. This movie was made for all of you.“

The FNAF movie was made for us, the fans.

Which is not to say that new fans are not welcome, if anything I’m incredibly excited to see what new curious and excited puzzle seekers join our ranks as a result of this movie’s release. I am delighted that the movie seems accessible to new people as a first step in the franchise. There will be more, no doubt in my mind, this is just the beginning of whatever twisting rabbit hole Scott Cawthon has planned.

And I’m going to be here for wherever it takes us.