As an adaptation, the Five Nights at Freddy’s movie is an odd duck. Very little about the story being told is taken directly, as is, from one of the games or novels or comics that make up this increasingly sprawling franchise. Instead, series creator/film co-writer Scott Cawthon and director/co-writer Emma Tammi remixed elements from all over the franchise into basically a new and very different version of the first game’s story.
Most everything in the film will be familiar to the fans, but much of it ends up being used in new ways, so even the die-hard Freddyheads (or whatever fans of this franchise are called) have the chance to be surprised by what happens in the movie. As long as they don’t read the rest of this article before they watch it, anyway.
Warning: This article contains spoilers for the entire Five Nights at Freddy’s movie, including a full breakdown of the ending.
The basic setup goes like this: A guy named Mike Schmidt is obsessed with finding the man who kidnapped his brother decades earlier when they were both children, and every night he forces himself to dream about that day in hopes that he’ll notice some new clue in his memory. But he never does, and he never gets any real rest, either. And then he loses his security job because he beat up a guy he wrongly thought was kidnapping a kid.
That leads him to a career counselor, played by Matthew Lillard, who responds oddly when reading Mike’s file and pushes him toward a night security gig at Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza, a decrepit Chuck E. Cheese-alike that’s been shut down for years. He takes the job and continues his dreaming at the pizza place–but in his dreams there, he meets a bunch of other children he’s never seen before who may know something about his brother.
There are other threads as well. Mike has a much younger, kid-aged sister named Abby who he takes care of. However, his aunt wants to take custody of Abby, convinced Mike is a loser who can’t afford to care for her. And we’ve got an overly friendly cop named Vanessa who knows way more about Freddy’s than a normal person should.
Of course, we’ve also got those murderous animatronic animals. While they defend the pizzeria with prejudice when some folks ransack and rob the place, they don’t have any issue with Mike at first–and they take a liking to Abby, spending one of the titular nights playing with her.
The story burns pretty slowly until we approach the ending, at which point Vanessa lays out all the details: the animatronic animals contain the souls of children who were murdered by being put inside the suits–these are the same kids that Mike is seeing in his dreams–and they now want to do the same to Abby. And the reason why they want that is because they’re being influenced by the man who had murdered them: Vanessa’s dad, William Afton. And Vanessa participates in his schemes by luring new security guards to their deaths. On top of everything, William Afton kidnapped and murdered Mike’s brother, but we get no details about that.
Vanessa has a change of heart this time, likely because of Abby’s involvement, and this sparks Afton to show himself. And, yes, it’s Matthew Lillard’s character from the beginning of the movie, now wearing a dirty yellow rabbit suit. Things are looking pretty dire, but our heroes manage to turn Freddy and Chica and the other animatronic dead children against Afton, and in the scuffle he ends up suffering the same fate as his past victims: murdered by the finicky spring mechanisms in his suit. It foils his plans for now and brings the movie to a close, but this will probably make him more powerful in the hypothetical sequel.
Five Nights at Freddy’s Mid-Credits Scene explained
Like a lot of aspiring franchise pictures, Five Nights at Freddy’s features a bonus scene during the credits that promises, well, that this story ain’t over just yet. It takes us back to the cab driver–did you notice nobody has a smartphone in this movie?–that Abby and the robot Chica rode with earlier in the movie. But he’s got another passenger, likely left in the car by Chica: a tiny animatronic guy known as Balloon Boy, who was introduced in the second game.
Fun fact about the cabbie, though: he’s played by YouTuber CoreyxKenshin.
How the Five Nights at Freddy’s movie changed the lore
To say that Five Nights at Freddy’s lore is coherent would be pretty generous, and as a result it might not be correct to say the movie “changed” it. There are lots of gaps, and there are plenty of old theories that a lot of fans now take as fact even though they’ve never truly been confirmed.
In the games, there are two Mikes, who are frequently theorized to be the same person: the Mike Schmidt from the first game, and also Michael Afton, the protagonist of Five Nights at Freddy’s: Sister Location–and the son of William Afton. The Mike in the movie, however, doesn’t seem to be William’s son, though, because his dad in his dreams was somebody else. Never say never, though.
Vanessa, meanwhile, is William’s offspring here, but that isn’t the case in the games so far as we know. Vanessa is a character from several of the games, most notably as the villain of Five Nights at Freddy’s: Security Breach, in which a young child has to survive a night in a Freddy’s-themed mall. Vanessa is a security guard who was corrupted by a digital virus called Glitchtrap–one of William Afton’s ghostly forms. She’s Vanessa A, too, so she could also be an Afton in the games.
While Abby is a mostly original character here, it’s worth noting that the Michael Afton of the games had at least one, and possibly two siblings. The definite one is a younger sister, Elizabeth, who was killed by one of the animatronic suits and who possesses the Circus Baby suit in Sister Location. The other potential Afton sibling is the unnamed child who serves as the player character during Five Nights at Freddy’s 4’s minigames. Michael Afton is frequently thought to be the unnamed protagonist of that game, with the child being his younger brother. Like Abby, this child had imaginary friends who turned out to be the spirits possessing the animatronics. Unlike Abby, this child ended up being killed when Fredbear, the predecessor to Freddy, bites his head and crushes it.
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