“Five Nights at Freddy’s” Family-Friendly Horror

 Josh Hutcherson ("Hunger Games") as Mike Schmidt in "Five Nights at Freddy's" courtesy Peacock
Josh Hutcherson as Mike Schmidt in “Five Nights at Freddy’s” courtesy Peacock

There may be a scene of a decapitated body but “Five Nights at Freddy’s” is a family-friendly horror movie that kids want to see. On Halloween, I took my eight-year-old sister to see the movie. Going to the movies and eating popcorn with her is always enjoyable, but then she started doing her makeup like the animatronics for an entire week when we got home. After asking my sister if she thought the movie was scary she said a little bit. The jump scares did get her a few times. When I asked my sister if she enjoyed the movie, she responded “ It was very good. My favorite part was the ending because it was very funny.”

Based on the popular video game developed by Scott Cawthon in 2014, directors Emma Tammi and Seth Cawthon brought the animatronics of “Five Nights at Freddy’s” to life just in time for Halloween. When the film opened on Oct. 27, the movie sold an estimated $78 million in ticket sales in North America and over $130 million globally.

The movie starts off with the protagonist, Mike Schmidt, needing a new job and he ends up being the security guard at the shutdown restaurant of “Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzeria.” His job is just to keep the place clean and keep people out. However, Mike soon learns dark secrets and that the animatronics are haunted.

Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzeria opened in the 1980s by William Afton and Henry Emily. William’s youngest son, Evan, was scared of the animatronics in the pizzeria so Mike, William’s eldest son, saw this as an opportunity to prank Evan. Mike put Evan’s head in the Freddy Fazbear animatronic at the diner so Fredbear could give him a kiss, but Evan’s tears cause the spring locks to fail and Fredbear chomps down on Evan, which in Five Nights at Freddy’s lore is known as “the bite of ‘83.”

The premise of the video game and the film is to survive five nights with Fredbear and stay alive.

Josh Hutcherson (“Hunger Games,” “Bridge to Terabithia”) plays Mike Schmidt. Having little knowledge of the game, and having never played it before, Josh Hutcherson gives the character more emotional depth than is in the games. “He was so excited about the franchise and the animatronics and the really fun elements of Five Nights at Freddy’s,” director Emma Tammi told NBC Insider, “but he also engaged on a deeper character level and did such an authentic job of portraying Mike.”

Matthew Lillard plays Steve Raglan, aka “William Afton.” Lillard’s character says “I always come back,” recalling his line from “I’ll be right back.” in “Scooby-Doo” (2002) and “Scream” (1996).

Vanessa is played by Elizabeth Lail from the hit Netflix original series, “You.” She has an uncanny resemblance to Vanessa in the game but their backstories and occupations are entirely different. In the game, she’s a security guard, while in the movie she is a police officer.

Actors who were also fans of the video game helped the movie come to life, including YouTubers CoryxKenshin as the taxi driver and MatPat as the server in the diner. Both YouTubers posted their first Five Nights at Freddy’s fan video nine years ago. In the movie, there is an employee of the month board that includes YouTubers and acquaintances of Scott Cawthon.

With ‌nine games and eleven books in the series, there are countless Easter eggs throughout the movie. The office has similarities to the first game. The cup on the desk and posters on the wall reference Fazbear’s Fright from the third game. William Afton takes a job as a career counselor and goes by Steve Raglin, similar to the book “Silver Eyes” where William adopts the false identity of Dave Miller. A wall full of drawings, which also appears in “Silver Eyes,” is used by children’s spirits to communicate with the protagonists.

Lillard told the Hollywood Reporter, “This film is going to be a fan favorite. I mean we have such an incredible legion of fans out there. I think one of the exciting things is that we are making this movie for them and I think they’re going to really respond to that.”

“Five Nights at Freddy’s” is available for streaming on Peacock and is rated PG-13.