Fazbear Frights: 1:35AM

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for earlier instalments of this series. You can read my review of these novels here:

Into the Pit | Fetch

Fazbear Frights: 1:35AM was written by Scott Cawthon, Elley Cooper and Andrea Waggener and was first published in 2020. It is a collection of three short stories, all set within the incredibly loose canon of the Five Nights at Freddy’s video game series. Although the stories largely stand alone, this collection does follow on from Into the Pit (2020) and Fetch (2020). A further two collections are planned to be released over the next few months.

In 1:35AM, Delilah’s irregular hours working at the diner have cause her to develop trouble sleeping. To help solve the problem, she purchases Ella – a doll with a built-in clock – from a garage sale. When Ella proves to be faulty, Delilah quickly throws her in the trash. However, this soon proves to be a big mistake. Delilah finds herself woken at 1:35AM every morning by the sound of something scuttling around her house. Each night, Ella seems to be getting closer. What can Delilah possibly do to make her stop?

In Room for One More, Stanley has been feeling isolated ever since his girlfriend left him and he started a new job as a night watchman. He does not even know what is produced at the factory where he works. He merely sits at his desk and sleeps all night, but no one seems to care. Then Stanley starts to get sick, showing a wide range of bizarre symptoms. Yet they can’t have anything to do with that weird ballerina doll that appears in his office every night, can they?

In The New Kid, Devon is obsessed with trying to get Heather to notice him, even though his attempts are ruining his friendship with Mick. He’s sure he’s getting close too, until Kelsey starts at their school. Kelsey is handsome and popular, having no trouble with making friends with everyone. Devon is sick with jealousy and knows he has to have his revenge. When he finds an abandoned restaurant in the woods, still stocked with broken animatronic mascots, it seems to be the perfect way to scare Kelsey. However, Devon could never have imagined how quickly everything could go wrong…

In case you haven’t checked out my previous reviews, let’s start by talking a little about the history of this franchise. Five Nights at Freddy’s first appeared on Windows, Android and iOS in 2014. It is a survival horror game with a very simple premise. You are a night watchman at a pizzeria and must survive for five nights. You have dwindling energy reserves, but can control lights, cameras and security doors to protect yourself from the restaurant’s animatronic mascots.

Five Nights at Freddy’s turned out to be a huge success, but no one could have ever imagined the cult following that it would gain. To date, there have now been several games, a spin-off trilogy of young adult novels and more Funkos and plushies than you could ever imagine. Although none of the games contain a clear narrative, fans love to debate its canon and come up with all manner of theories concerning just what is going on at Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzeria.

It should probably be noted that this series of short story collections are largely designed to stand on their own. They aren’t really connected to the games and so I expect that you could enjoy them in isolation. However, I still would argue that these stories have been written with the fans in mind. They are filled with little nods that only people who have played all of the games will understand, such as the appearances of certain locations and mascots. Due to these, if you aren’t overly familiar with Five Nights at Freddy’s and its tangled lore, you might want to give this series a miss.

Anyhow, it’s probably easiest if we take a look at each of these stories in turn.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that this collection was the strongest instalment of the series to date. The three stories that are showcased this time felt a lot more varied than what we have seen previously. While all of the previous narrative voices have been either children or teenagers, 1:35AM and Room for One More both feature adult protagonists. It’s still clear that these books are targeted at young adult readers, but it was still interesting to see the authors addressing more adult issues, such as jobs, rent and marriage. It also helped to emphasise the fact that grown-ups are just as helpless against the unholy animatronics as anyone else.

1:35AM was a very strange short-story, and probably my least favourite part of this collection. It had the feel of one of those old campfire tales, where the ghost draws closer to its victim every night as they sleep. Unfortunately, this formula soon fell flat as Ella never really did anything more than scratch at the door, causing the story to never feel as thought it was building to anything.

That being said, the one thing that 1:35AM did do effectively was show Delilah’s increasing madness. As Ella’s torment continues, Delilah grows more sleep deprived and desperate. The authors neatly capture the sense that Delilah’s paranoia is building as she starts to take risks, gets in trouble at work and pushes her few remaining friends away.

While 1:35AM contained less of the mascots than ever before and only the briefest of references to Freddy Fazbear’s, it was a highly unpredictable story and did escalate to a suitably creepy ending. While it probably shared the most in common with Out of Stock from the previous collection, this story felt even more disconnected from the franchise as it’s never entirely clear where Ella came from or what she wants.

Yet the treatment of Delilah did trouble me somewhat. As I mentioned in my review of Into the Pit, all of the female protagonists in this series seem to be deeply flawed individuals and it never seems to end well for them. The male characters, on the other hand, have thus far had a 50/50 chance of being absolutely fine and tend to be more sympathetic. This lack of balance does frustrate me a little.

Room for One More also followed an adult protagonist – Stanley – who entertainingly works as a night watchmen in a nice nod towards the video game series. Much like 1:35AM, the story took place over several consecutive nights, however it did do a far better job of maintaining its tension. Every morning, Stanley finds himself much sicker than the night before and he gradually comes to realise how all of his ills stemmed from his career.

Personally, I found Room for One More to be one of the most effective and disturbing of the short-stories to date. The whole thing read like a Creepypasta, containing absolutely no grounding in reality but slowly building into some kind of grotesque body-horror as Stanley (and the reader) figure out what is causing his raw throat and swollen limbs. I found myself reading on because I was genuinely curious to find out what was going to happen. The ending was certainly quite surprising and is likely to stick with me for a long time.

Stanley was also a decent protagonist, forming one of the most sympathetic characters in this series to date. The scenes with his family and exposition about his ex-girlfriend did a great job of shaping him within a short page count. His only true flaw was the fact that he accepted his job in the first place. Seriously, who wanders past a biological waste bin every day and yet never questions what their employer is doing?

Then there was The New Kid. This story once again focused on a young protagonist and is another slow-burner. As in Lonely Freddy in the previous collection, the story largely just focuses on a small group of teenage boys as they go about their daily lives. Devon is desperate to be part of the in-crowd and has convinced himself that the most popular girl in school fancies him. Mick is still clinging to his childhood and wishes that Devon was more like he used to be. Kelsey is the new kid in school and seems content to hang with Devon and Mick, even though he could have so much more. For a long time, I did wonder where this one was heading as it’s not until its final third that the plot really picks up.

While the opening teen drama failed to grip me, I did very much enjoy the climax. The incident at the pizzeria is gruesome, but something that fans of the games will quickly realise is a grim inevitability. While the final twist of this story confused me at first, I did get a grasp on what had happened after a couple of re-reads. While it doesn’t really make a lot of sense, I must admit that I do kind of like it. It’s not the most shocking ending to date, but it was darkly amusing.

Unfortunately, the worst thing about The New Kid was its characters. Much like the protagonist of Lonely Freddy, Devon is very hard to like. His mood swings between overly pessimistic and delusional, and his sudden personality flip when he discovers the abandoned pizzeria is very jarring. While Kelsey and Mick were harmless enough, Devon just felt far too exaggerated to be a realistic character, and never showed any redeemable features that would make him actually likeable.

The collection ended with another glimpse into Detective Larson’s “Stitch Wraith” investigation. While this mini-plot is still as weird as ever, this instalment did start to draw things together by giving a possible glimpse into the Stitch Wraith’s origins. While this story still feels flimsy at best and does not seem to be going anywhere fast, this was the first part that did tickle my curiosity. Hopefully, the plot will start to build into something in the next instalment.

I think that covers everything. All in all, Fazbear Frights is still a series that I would only recommend for the fans, but I was pleased to find that this collection is the strongest one so far. I am very curious to see where Cawthon will take it next.

Fazbear Frights: 1:35AM can be purchased as a Paperback, eBook & Audio Book from Amazon.co.uk

Scott Cawthon and Kira Breed Wrisley also previously released a trilogy of young adult novels that are loosely based on the Five Nights at Freddy’s games. If you would like to find out more, check out the links below:

The Silver Eyes | The Twisted Ones | The Fourth Closet

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Fazbear Frights: Step Closer | Arkham Reviews
  2. Trackback: Fazbear Frights: Bunny Call | Arkham Reviews

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