Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza used to be a popular family destination, filled with games, laughter and their famous animatronic mascots. However, following the disappearance of five children at the restaurant, Freddy’s was shut down and left to decay. Now only a security guard is needed to make sure people don’t break in and wreck the old pizzeria — although they never seem to last long.

“Five Nights at Freddy’s,” directed by Emma Tammi, follows the pizzeria’s newest down-on-his-luck security guard Mike Schmidt (Josh Hutcherson) and his little sister Abby (Piper Rubio) as they learn the truth about what happened at the pizzeria all those years ago and try to survive their encounters with the spirits haunting the old animatronics.

Hutcherson in particular does an excellent job of portraying his character Mike as an exhausted, deeply traumatized older brother who is just trying to make ends meet while taking care of his little sister. While his character is flawed, the way Hutcherson portrays him still makes audiences empathize with his struggle and root for him every step of the way.

The film is based on the beloved video game franchise by the same name created by Scott Cawthon. While the movie takes elements from the entirety of the franchise, it takes most of its inspiration from the first game. It should be noted that while much of the lore of the games has been preserved, the movie is set in an alternate universe from that of the games, and is not a one-to-one recreation. New story elements and characters unique to the film have been introduced that cannot be found in the games.

The highlight of this film was by far the animatronics. For this movie to work, the animatronics needed to feel real, so Blumhouse Productions enlisted the help of Jim Henson’s Creature Shop to bring these animatronics to life, opting for practical effects instead of relying on CGI. Even through a screen, audiences got an immediate sense of the animatronics presence in the world of the film. It seemed as though one could reach out and touch them. This lent credibility to the audience’s sense of immersion in the movie, as they could believe that these animatronics were realistic threats to the characters in the film.

Tammi said in an interview with Fandago that it was particularly important to her to capture in the movie the essence of what it felt like to play the “Five Nights at Freddy’s” games, stating that she was “so taken with how the game made [her] feel. [She] was just always so tense and tuned into the atmospheric elements of the game, the sound design and the things you can’t see but you know that are lurking.”

The atmosphere Tammi ended up creating was one of eerie tension, shadowy figures and dramatic lighting. While the rest of the world in the film is shown in dull, washed-out colors, Freddy’s is harsh, vibrant and deeply unsettling. When the characters are inside the abandoned pizzeria, the audience is left on the edge of their seats, with the ever-rising tension of knowing what might be just around the corner. The 80’s synth-esque score created by The Newton Brothers only enhances these feelings. The score emulates video game music of the 80’s, fitting into the franchise’s video game origins and the setting of a haunted, decayed arcade and pizzeria. The sound of children’s voices lurk throughout the score, adding to the disturbing feel of the music and highlighting the tragedy of the events of the movie.

However, the movie isn’t just pure tension and scare after scare. “Five Nights at Freddy’s” acknowledges that the premise of haunted animal-themed animatronics is kind of silly and leans into the ridiculousness of the situation at times. The movie balances the horror and tension of the film with more lighthearted and comedic moments. The director remarked in an interview on the similarities of horror and comedic timing, and emphasized the importance of utilizing both effectively.

Tammi stated that “we knew … the world of Freddy’s was so much fun and that without having some levity and humor in it, we’d be missing an opportunity to … bring it to life in a fully dimensional way.”

Throughout the entire process, the director, cast and crew of “Five Nights at Freddy’s” were dedicated to making the movie an adaptation that fans would be proud of.

Tammi said that her goal was to make an adaptation that fans “would really … click with,” and that the end result would be what fans “want, hope, expect and hopefully so much more.”

Rating: 4/5 stars