Fazbear Frights: Step Closer

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for earlier instalments in this series. You can read my reviews of these novels by clicking the links below:

Into the Pit | Fetch | 1:35AM

Fazbear Frights: Step Closer was written by Scott Cawthon, Elley Cooper, Kelly Parra and Andrea Waggener. It is a collection of three short stories which are all set within the vague canon of the Five Nights at Freddy’s game series. Although these stories do largely stand alone, they would certainly be better enjoyed if you are familiar with the games or have already read the earlier instalments of this series – Into the Pit (2020), Fetch (2020) and 1:35AM (2020).

In Step Closer, Pete deeply resents his entire family. Since his father has left them, his mother expects him to spend all of his time looking after his younger brother, Chuck. To get his revenge, Pete plans to give his brother a scare using Foxy the Pirate Fox, the mascot of a local pizzeria. Yet something goes wrong and the Foxy animatronic gets stuck repeating a sinister line of his song. Afterwards, Pete falls victim of a series of weird accidents. Is it a coincidence, or has Foxy somehow managed to curse him?

In Dance with Me, Kasey is starting to have doubts about her life as a street thief, but things come to a head when she literally steals candy for a child. Yet, as she rummages through the kid’s goody bag, she also finds a pair of novelty glasses which cause her to see the image of a robotic ballerina. As Kasey continues to steal to survive, she plays with the glasses and can’t help but notice that the dancer is getting closer. Is it too late to change her ways before Ballora gets close enough to catch her?

In Coming Home, Susie cannot understand why her sister, Samantha, seems to have grown so distant. They were never the best of friends but now Samantha just ignores her. To make matters worse, every night a creepy robotic chicken appears at their home and takes Susie away. Susie knows that it won’t be long before Chica won’t allow her to return home but is not ready to leave. It’s up to Samantha to find out what is binding her sister’s spirit to the house before it is too late…

Before I begin, time for a little bit of history. Five Nights at Freddy’s is a survival horror game that was originally released in 2014 on Windows, Android and iOS. In the game, you played as a night watchman at a pizzeria. Your goal was to survive for five nights, using dwindling power supplies to control lights and security doors in order to protect yourself from the four animatronic mascots of the restaurant.

Freddy Fazbear, Bonnie the Rabbit, Chica the Chicken and Foxy the Pirate Fox roamed free at night and were unable to recognise humans. If they caught the player, they would view him as an endoskeleton that needed to be stuffed into a robotic shell. Naturally, this would spell a messy death. The game proved to be incredibly popular, spawning a number of sequels, a lot of merchandise, and a trilogy of young adult novels (links can be found at the bottom of this post).

Step Closer is the fourth collection of short stories in this series to date and certainly provided the most variety so far. While this collection is still clearly linked to the game (the first two stories feature the restaurant chain, while the third makes direct reference to the serial killings of the games), each of these stories differed wildly in both themes and tone. Personally, I didn’t think that these stories were quite as memorable as those in 1:35AM, but it was interesting to see the writers try to use the typical Five Nights at Freddy’s themes to create different kinds of horror stories.

The first of the stories – Step Closer – was by far my favourite part of this collection. Early in the story, Pete hears Foxy get stuck on a line while singing his signature song – “first you’ll have to lose an eye and an arm, yarg” – and after that gets into a string of accidents which seem determined to cripple him accordingly. The plot from here reminded me a lot of the Final Destination movies, as it built tension purely through the fact that it made me curious to see what would happen to Pete next.

While I did feel that the story could have done more to explain the nature of Foxy’s curse, beyond the hint that there was some dark ritual going on in the maintenance room, this story did keep me absolutely hooked until the final page. Pete was a very sympathetic character and, although he initially seemed to be a bit of a git, it was easy to feel sorry for his situation. His feelings towards Chuck were realistic and the authors did a great job of developing their relationship over a low page count.

Yet the climax of Step Closer was brutal, even by the standards of this series. Its unrelentingly bleak ending left a bad taste in my mouth and I’m of two minds regarding whether or not that is a good thing. It has certainly been one of the most disturbing stories in this series so far, certainly up there with Lonely Freddy and Room for One More.

The second story – Dance with Me – was the shortest of the three and also the one that left the least of an impression on me. This was more of a morality tale, with a street thief forced to question her life choices after stealing from a child (and having a weird encounter with Ballora). While it did manage to create a degree of tension in the form of the gradual approach of the ballerina, it did not maintain this anywhere near as effectively as Step Closer did.

Dance with Me instead took the form of an intervention for the protagonist. While Kasey’s tragic past did not feel as well fleshed out as that of Delilah from 1:35AM, she was certainly made from the same mould. She was one who had fallen on hard times and was struggling to find her feet again. My biggest issue with this short story is that it never truly felt as though it was building to anything.

Unlike in Step Closer, in which the protagonist did his damnest to change his fate and failed, Kasey managed to break her curse with remarkable ease. Ballora never seemed to be a threat as she didn’t do anything more sinister than pirouette at the protagonist and therefore Kasey never felt as though she was in danger. While this was underwhelming, it did at least mark one of the rare stories in this series where a female character was not harshly punished. I am hoping that this is the start of a new trend because I was getting very tired of the fact that female protagonists tend to die horribly.

The final story – Coming Home – was a bit of a strange one. It quickly becomes apparent that this instalment is a ghost story, focusing on one of the little girls who fell victim to a serial killer (possibly William Afton, though I think the games have had a few separate killings at this point). While this does tie the story in directly with the games, there was still something that felt a little off about it. The tale is long and slow-burning, and for the most part did not really feel in-keeping with the tone of the series.

The antagonist (as far as they could be so called) was Chica but I was never entirely sure why she was even there. It seemed at first as though she was just some kind of gaoler for Susie, but if this was the case it was unclear why she allowed the spirit to return to the house every day. However, the climax blurred this connection as Chica’s attention totally changed and she instead targeted Samantha. Why? Was Chica a spirit or a physical being? And what would she have done if she had actually managed to catch the girl?

More than any previous story, Coming Home felt as though it was an entirely unconnected work that had just had a few Five Nights at Freddy’s flavours thrown into it at a late stage. While the story is interesting in that it tries its best to explore how the sudden loss of a child affects a family, it was too long and drawn out to be a truly effective horror story. Ultimately, this one was not one of my favourites.

The collection ended, as always, with another glimpse into the ongoing Stitchwraith investigation. This chapter was actually fairly interesting, as it finally gave a glimpse into the Stitchwraith’s mind and, I must admit, this was not what I was expecting. I’m curious to see if this revelation is going to tie into any future instalments.

So, I think that about covers everything. All in all, this wasn’t my favourite collection in this series but it wasn’t all bad either. Step Closer is an incredibly creepy tale and the other two, while a little underwhelming, still had their moments. I’m still curious where the Stitchwraith story is going and look forward to seeing how this will develop in the next volume.

Fazbear Frights: Step Closer can be purchased as a Paperback, eBook and 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

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