Oftentimes, a film is so highly anticipated, and takes so long to be made, that I begin to question if the film is real or just a large grouping of rumors. Five Nights at Freddy’s (2023) was no exception. Watching multiple studios and directors come and go, the release of the film came over eight years after its initial announcement. It was easy to think this production would never be able to get its footing.
The long wait for the film to be made can be credited to Five Nights at Freddy’s (or FNAF) creator, Scott Cawthon. After creating the original game in 2014, Cawthon gained a massive fan base, and he was dedicated to creating a story that would pay the proper respect to its source material.Scott Cawthon even joined the film crew as a writer and producer. Jason Blum, another producer of the film and founder of Blumhouse Productions, stated that the film was made “for the fans and really only for the fans”. This made it clear from the beginning that Cawthon’s intention was not to make a critically successful film, but to make a film that would be accepted by the community he created.
Then, the seemingly impossible happened: After settling on a script, a studio, and choosing Emma Tammi as director, the time had come to make the film. Being the adaptation of a video game franchise I hold dear, I was adamant to be in the theater, alongside friends, watching Freddy and the gang as soon as I could. For added fun, we chose to dress formally, a decision that makes popcorn eating slightly more hazardous. It is worth noting that Scott Cawthon’s formula of fan service was highly successful, as the film earned $80 million in its opening weekend.
Taking inspiration from several of the FNAF games, the film follows Mike Schmidt (played by Josh Hutcherson) as he does his best to raise his little sister, Abby (played by Piper Rubio) on his own, all while trying to solve the mystery of the kidnapping of his younger brother, Garrett. Desperate for work, Mike takes a security position at the abandoned Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza Place, only to discover that the establishment has a dark history, and an even darker secret.
The film employs a very impressive use of practical effects, choosing not to rely on CGI for their animatronics. In fact, the animatronic models used in the film were built by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop (though I do not expect that we will see Freddy Fazbear acting alongside Kermit the Frog any time soon). The animatronics were near identical representations of the ones seen in the game.
The film also received criticism for its rating. The film is rated PG-13 for strong violent content, bloody images, and language. However, many fans have expressed that an R rating would have suited the film better. This has been a constant debate since the PG-13 rating of the film was announced. Many critics and viewers stated that the greater freedom and comes with an R rating would have allowed the movie to be more violent and scary. Other critics believe that the PG-13 rating is better for the mostly young audience of the film, and stays true to the video games, which have remained tame in the violence over the years. It is also worth mentioning that Scott Cawthon himself is a devout Christian. Before developing the first FNAF game, Cawthon was known for making faith based games for kids. With this in mind, Cawthon may have chosen to stick to the PG-13 rating out of respect for his Christian faith.
Despite the mixed reviews, Five Nights at Freddy’s told a heartfelt story of a young man who would stop at nothing to protect and provide for his sister, as well as find justice for his brother. The film is jam packed with easter eggs, cameos, and jokes to keep the fans of the games entertained, with the occasional scare to satisfy the horror fans. Most of all, Scott Cawthon successfully wrote a love letter to all the kids who grew up being scared by Freddy Fazbear, including myself.