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5 things to know before watching the Five Nights at Freddy’s movie

Who the FNAF movie is meant for, and what that means for fans and non-fans

Animatronics Bonnie, Freddy Fazbear, and Chica stand on a stage, looking to the right, in the Universal Pictures movie adaptation Five Nights at Freddy’s Photo: Universal Pictures

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The possessed-animatronics horror video game Five Nights at Freddy’s is less than a decade old, but a movie version has been in the works almost since the game launched, which seems especially protracted for a development process. Warner Bros. bought the movie rights in 2015, and the project moved over to Blumhouse a couple of years later. Game creator Scott Cawthon wrote and rewrote the script, while kid-horror filmmakers like Gil Kenan (Monster House) and Chris Columbus (Gremlins, the first Harry Potter and Percy Jackson movies) signed on and jumped off the project.

Finally, under director Emma Tammi, the film is hitting theaters simultaneously with a Peacock streaming debut. The franchise’s most hardcore fans probably consider themselves beyond ready to watch the Freddy’s film. But what about everyone else? If you’re not sure, have a look at this handy (and extremely spoiler-light) Q&A. We don’t dig into the considerable lore behind FNAF here — there are endless YouTube videos for that. We’re mostly talking about who this film is for and what to expect.

Does Five Nights at Freddy’s have a post-credits scene?

Security guard Mike (Josh Hutcherson) looking deeply alarmed and ragged as he stands in dim blue light in the Five Nights at Freddy’s movie Photo: Universal Pictures

Yes. More specifically, it has a brief mid-credits scene that rolls less than a minute after the initial cut to black. It isn’t integral to the movie’s lore, and doesn’t feel like a sequel tease, though it certainly could be elaborated on in a sequel. It’s more of a comic scene involving YouTuber and horror-game aficionado Cory DeVante “CoryxKenshin” Williams, though he doesn’t seem to be playing himself. But as far as a true post-credits scene that actually plays at the tail end of the credit roll, Five Nights at Freddy’s doesn’t have one — just a brief, not especially exciting audio-only Easter egg.

Can you enjoy Five Nights at Freddy’s if you haven’t played the games?

At a Blumhouse panel for the recent New York Comic Con, producer Jason Blum explained that he thinks a lot of adaptations — books, comics, and games alike — falter when creators try to simultaneously please hardcore fans and remain accessible to new audiences. According to Blum, his company finally cracked Five Nights at Freddy’s by deciding not to make it with new audiences in mind. In other words, they ultimately decided to just please the fans.

It was a clear applause-bait line at a convention filled to the brim with, yes, fans. But that doesn’t mean the movie is hard to follow. It starts from scratch, mimicking the premise of the first game: A guy named Mike (Josh Hutcherson) is hired as overnight security guard for an abandoned Chuck E. Cheese-style arcade restaurant, and encounters some animatronics with strange and eerie origins. There’s no comics-style backstory that demands pre-movie study.

Still, complete newcomers checking out the movie to see what the fuss is about may be confused for other reasons. The movie’s backstory is parceled out awkwardly, in ways that are sometimes confusing. Characters’ decisions don’t always make sense. And there’s as much family melodrama as thrill-ride scares. There isn’t much you can do about it except assure yourself that any confusion you experience in watching it isn’t just you. The movie is kind of weird, and not because of some missing fan-only information that unlocks all its inconsistencies. The for-the-fans vibe Blum described applies more to whether the average person will care about this story, not whether they can understand it.

Will Five Nights at Freddy’s experts enjoy the movie more?

Bird animatronic Chica, holding small cupcake animatronic Cupcake, stands in very dim light in the Five Nights at Freddy’s movie adaptation Photo: Universal Pictures

Longtime fans hungering for an exploration or expansion of the game series’ continuing mythology should prepare themselves to see something more simplified. Typical enough for an adaptation, some of the more complicated lore has been stripped out, though it could probably be reintroduced in any sequel. This does make the movie more accessible for franchise newcomers, whether Blum wanted that or not.

Also, fans might expect more screen time than they actually get for the core animatronics team of Freddy, Bonnie, Chica, Foxy, and Carl the Cupcake.

Is Five Nights at Freddy’s safe for kids?

For an ostensible horror franchise — one based on nostalgia for and subversion of animatronic characters that date to the 1980s — the Five Nights at Freddy’s games have a surprising amount of young fans. Its kid appeal is an echo of a time when playgrounds were alight with elementary school kids describing the antics of Freddy and/or Jason, whether witnessed firsthand or pieced together from rumors. Unlike A Nightmare on Elm Street or Friday the 13th, however, Freddy’s is rated PG-13, rather than R.

So is it really as kid-friendly as other PG-13 IP movies, like Aquaman or Captain Marvel? That will depend a lot on the kid in question, of course, but the movie is far from an unrelenting thrill ride. It isn’t as intense as fellow PG-13 horror movies The Ring or Drag Me to Hell. The most ghoulish aspects of the Freddy’s backstory are kept off screen or entirely unmentioned, and none of its set-pieces seem like pure nightmare fuel. Several of the titular five nights pass without much incident at all.

That said, there are plentiful cheap music-sting jump scares and a few gruesome bits of junior-level gore. Violence-wise, this is a harder PG-13 than your average superhero movie, which will probably only entice its younger YouTube-versed fans even more. Again, every kid is different, but generally speaking, that 12 or 13 age cutoff is probably about right.

Wasn’t there already a horror movie about evil animatronics?

Nicolas Cage is stalked by a killer animatronic flamingo in the movie Willy’s Wonderland Photo: JD Entertainment

Yes! Five Nights at Freddy’s took so long to get the movie treatment that it was actually lapped by a spirited knockoff. Willy’s Wonderland doesn’t have nearly so much lore as the FNAF games, but its premise is basically One Night at Cage’s, with Nicolas Cage playing a man hired to serve as an overnight janitor at a haunted Chuck E. Cheese-type location. As expected, the interesting element of the movie is Cage’s performance — especially because it’s entirely dialogue-free, muting one of Cage’s most distinctive features as an actor.

The novelty isn’t quite enough for Willy’s Wonderland to reach the upper echelon of Cage’s last decade, but hardcore fans of either the actor or the concept might enjoy the strange combination of a unique movie-star brand with an off-brand version of the famous game series. And a total Five Nights novice might even prefer the sillier, shorter Cage version.

Five Nights at Freddy’s is in theaters and will stream on Peacock starting Oct. 27.

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