Get ready to heal your inner child and dive back into the spine-tingling world of animatronic horror, as the highly anticipated Five Nights at Freddy’s (FNAF) movie makes its long-awaited debut on the big screen. After almost a decade, fans of the FNAF franchise can experience their favorite nightmarish characters in a whole new way.
This Catalyst reporter attended an advance screening on Oct. 26. Audience members were geared up in full FNAF attire, and they reacted throughout to all the surprises in the film.
FNAF is a renowned point-and-click indie horror game developed by Scott Cawthon. Originally released in August 2014, it quickly gained widespread attention for its unique storytelling and simplistic yet terrifying gameplay. The game is set in a haunted pizzeria where the player takes on the role of a night security guard who must endure five consecutive nights while surviving animatronic characters that come to life at night. The game’s concept was simple yet effective. Players were confined to a security room with limited resources, leaving them to rely on cameras and strategic power-management to survive from midnight to six a.m.
FNAF’s rapid rise to popularity can be attributed to several factors. First and foremost, the game capitalized on the growing trend of Let’s Play videos that were becoming increasingly popular on platforms like YouTube, where gamers would record and share cut down versions of their playthroughs. The game’s jump scares and tense atmosphere made it a hit among content creators, leading to widespread exposure. The game’s opportunities to encounter lore screens, hidden secrets and dark undertones piqued players’ curiosity, encouraging a strong fan community to form and discuss theories and interpretations of the game’s story. Creators such as Mark Fischbach, known online as Markiplier, and Matthew Patrick, known as MatPat, boomed in popularity after the release of the franchise, and still hold high standings within the community. Patrick even has a cameo in the film.
Other factors that boosted the game above others were its simplicity and accessibility. Not only was it affordable, it could be found on multiple platforms, making it easily accessible to a wide audience.
Although the series gained intense traction, ending up with 13 games and two book series along with many other spin-offs, the film took nine years to be produced and released.
The journey of bringing the FNAF movie to life has been a rollercoaster of excitement and disappointment for both fans and creator Cawthon alike. The film was originally announced to be in production in April 2015. This stirred up the community, especially given the massive popularity of the video game series. However, it faced a series of cancellations and setbacks over the years. The first major setback came when Warner Brothers, which was initially attached to the project, decided not to proceed. This was due to complications in getting the animatronics to work on set, as well as Cawthon being unhappy with the script. He released this statement on Twitter, now known as “X”, back in 2020 after fans commented on whether or not the project would ever be finished:
“It may seem like the project has been inactive, but quite the opposite is true, it’s been very active for years. A lot of big talent has come and gone trying to get this just right. We all feel really good about the latest screenplay though, so I’m very hopeful. It’s going to happen! I’m just determined for it to be the best it can possibly be!”
This would all change in October 2022, when Blumhouse Entertainment CEO Jason Blum tweeted the message below, which blew up the fan base all over again.
The involvement of the Jim Henson Company’s puppet studio in the making of the FNAF movie added a unique and exciting dimension to the project. Renowned for their expertise in puppetry and animatronics, the studio brought its decades of experience in creating lifelike and expressive characters to the film. Given that the FNAF game series features menacing animatronic characters, the collaboration with Henson’s team was a perfect fit.
The studio contributed to the creation of the animatronic characters in the movie, using a combination of traditional puppetry techniques and advanced animatronic technology. This approach added a tangible, physical presence to the animatronics, enhancing the authenticity of the eerie and terrifying characters from the game. By seamlessly blending their craftsmanship with the film’s other practical effects, the studio ensured that the animatronics in the movie remained true to the spirit of the FNAF franchise. This collaboration heightened the anticipation among fans, as they eagerly awaited the spine-tingling encounters with the animatronics, brought to life with the magic of puppetry and technology.
Casting details for the film were released in December 2022, including a few big names. Josh Hutcherson, known for his role as Peeta Mellark in the Hunger Games films, took on the lead role as Mike Schmidt, the security guard tasked with watching over Freddy’s. Matthew Lillard, who is well known for his roles as Stu Macher in Scream (1996) and almost more notably as Shaggy in the live-action Scooby Doo movies, plays the main antagonist. But the real stars of the show are the animatronics.
The story follows Schmidt, (Hutcherson) who is presented as a troubled young man caring for and fighting to keep custody of his 10-year-old sister, Abby (Piper Rubio), but he is haunted by nightmares of the unsolved disappearance of his younger brother from more than a decade before. When he is served an eviction notice, Schmidt must then take any job he can get. His high school guidance counselor offers him a gig as a night guard at Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza, and soon after he starts all hell breaks loose.
“I’ve been waiting about ten years to see this movie and honestly, it’s all that I could want in a Five Nights at Freddy’s film,” third-year Illustration student at Ringling College of Art and Design (RCAD) Isabella Zaccone commented at the screening. She was wearing a Freddy Fazbear costume she had pieced together herself.
“The story was good and it took itself just seriously enough, which means we [the audience] were laughing the whole time. It was really nice because it’s obvious how much work went into the details of the film,” she added. “There were so many call backs to catch through the film that long-time fans really appreciated, and it really brought everyone together as a community which can be really awesome to see in real life instead of just a large social media presence. You show up and have all been waiting years to see this movie become a reality. It’s really nostalgic.”
Zaccone spoke about what she believes to be some of the most surprising aspects of the film.
“I think the first big surprise was the fact that MatPat actually had a cameo in the film, because he played it up so much that he didn’t get in, he even cried. Everyone yelled so loud when he walked on screen—it was such a funny moment. The other thing people were anticipating was how much gore is in it. Even though it’s no Saw X there was a lot more than I had originally expected, which really amped up the horror factor.”
One thing fans had highly anticipated was the cameo appearances by important figures from the FNAF fanbase. Although many were confirmed, the one that fans were looking forward to the most was a cameo from Fischbach, who would have been the first security guard to die in the opening of the film. This sadly didn’t end up happening. The reason was that he is producing his own film, Iron Lung, which ended up being shot over the same week as the FNAF movie. After FNAF’s release, it was announced that pre-production on the second film had already begun, and reportedly the FNAF franchise has a contract for three films in total. The production team announced that Fischbach should have a role in the second film, which is rumored to be a prequel.
The FNAF movie’s budget was a reported $20-million. In its opening weekend, the production managed to gross $80 million domestically and $52.6 million internationally, for a global debut of $132.6 million. The film has already surpassed the entire global profit of both 2022’s Halloween Ends ($104-million), and it is predicted that it will also soon overtake 2021’s Halloween Kills ($133-million), which had previously set the record for the biggest hybrid film release across streaming and theaters.
In a remarkable culmination of suspense and nostalgia, the FNAF movie has proven to be an absolute blockbuster and has cemented its status as a triumph in the world of modern horror cinema. With its stellar box office performance, a highly dedicated fanbase and unwavering dedication to staying true to the franchise as a whole, the film has not only brought the iconic animatronic gang to life, but it has also rekindled love for a franchise that has been terrifying and enthralling audiences for years. As the credits roll on this cinematic journey, it’s safe to say that FNAF has found a new home in the hearts of both old and new fans, promising more haunting adventures to come.