Mixed Review For Long Anticipated Movie “Five Nights at Freddy’s”

Mixed Review For Long Anticipated Movie Five Nights at Freddys
Photo Credit/ Favorisxp on DeviantArt

WARNING: This article contains spoilers for the “Five Nights at Freddy’s” film.

Picture this: it’s August of 2014, you’re in middle school, and all that anyone is talking about is a new video game that’s taken the world by storm. It’s called “Five Nights at Freddy’s,” and it’s an indie horror game created by Scott Cawthon, whose previous works were Christian-centric and flopped exceptionally. Fast forward to November of 2023: the franchise has gained worldwide recognition, resulting in ten official games, a handful of spin-offs, seemingly infinite amounts of fan-made content, nearly fifty books, and a blockbuster film. The cultural impact of this simple point-and-click experience was beyond what anyone – including Cawthon – could have ever imagined.

The basic premise of the “Five Nights at Freddy’s” video game is something along the lines of supernatural thriller meets Chuck E. Cheese. You play as Michael, the newly hired security guard at the now defunct Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzeria, and your only goal is to make sure nothing happens from midnight to 6 A.M. Sounds simple enough, right? Wrong. Unbeknownst to you, the animatronic mascots – Freddy, Bonnie, Foxy, Chica, and Mr. Cupcake – are alive, being possessed by the spirits of children who had gone missing from the entertainment center years prior. They’re restless and looking to avenge themselves, and, unfortunately, you’re their next target. Equipped with nothing more than security cameras, light switches, and doors, you must do everything possible to keep them out of the security room, while also making sure you don’t run out of power. Once the clock hits 6 A.M. and you’ve remained unscathed, you’re free to go, but if the power level reaches 0% before then, Freddy will be waiting for you. Aside from its horror elements, “Five Nights at Freddy’s” is a fast-paced strategy game that increases in difficulty each night and keeps you on the edge of your seat, praying that 6 A.M. arrives before a music box cover of Georges Bizet’s “Toreador March” signals your impending doom.

As previously mentioned, the most recent installment to this franchise is the “Five Nights at Freddy’s” movie. In 2015, shortly after the first game’s release, Warner Bros. announced that it would be producing the film, with Gil Kenan (“Monster House,” “Poltergeist”) directing. Evidently, this did not happen; it was instead released over eight years later by Universal Pictures and Blumhouse Productions. Directed by Emma Tammi (“The Wind,” “The Left Right Game”), the principal cast includes Josh Hutcherson (“The Hunger Games,” “The Bridge to Terabithia”) as Mike Schmidt, Piper Rubio as Abby Schmidt, Elizabeth Lail (“You,” “Once Upon a Time”) as Vanessa Shelly, and Matthew Lillard (“Scooby-Doo,” “Scream”) as Steve Raglan/William Afton. The movie also features cameos from various content creators who helped to popularize the franchise, such as CoryxKenshin, MatPat, and Dawko, and “Five Nights at Freddy’s” by The Living Tombstone as the end credits song. 

Official “Five Nights at Freddy’s” trailer from the Universal Pictures YouTube channel

On the silver screen, “Five Nights at Freddy’s” follows Mike, a troubled young man who has just been hired as the nighttime security guard at Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza. Amidst his other oddities, Mike’s main goals in life are maintaining custody of his sister Abby against their estranged aunt and solving the mystery of his brother’s kidnapping by reliving the day it happened repeatedly in his dreams. While on the job, he meets Vanessa, a policewoman who clearly has a history with the entertainment center that she’s not willing to share just yet. A mildly troubling chain of events ensues: Mike discovers the animatronics through their lively rendition of The Romantics’ “Talking In Your Sleep,” the Schmidts’ babysitter and three other people are killed after they break into the pizzeria, Abby’s imaginary friends are revealed to be the dead children possessing Freddy and Co., and Vanessa discloses that her father is William Afton, the man behind the slaughter of the missing children and Mike’s brother. In the end, William is defeated by the motley crew of heroes, and Mike and Abby return to their lives as if nothing has happened.

After seeing the film twice, I have mixed feelings about it. I’ve been a fan of the “Five Nights at Freddy’s” franchise ever since I knew what it was, which would be close to six or seven years now. To say that I was excited about the movie would be an understatement. I, like many other fans, am glad that it exists at all – considering it took almost a decade for it to happen – regardless of its quality. What really drew me in was the mystery element of the primary plot, which kept me anticipating what would happen next and made me want to see it through to the end. It retained a number of the game’s qualities, yet adopted its own storyline expanding upon Michael’s life and incorporating a handful of new characters and plotlines. The numerous Easter eggs were a pleasant touch as well. The acting was impressive; Hutcherson did a stellar job of embodying Mike and making him incredibly relatable, much to my surprise, while Rubio and the various child actors far exceeded my expectations. Beyond the characterization, the set and prop design did wonderfully at establishing an unsettling atmosphere and transporting the audience into the world of “Five Nights at Freddy’s.”

When asked about her opinion of the movie, Regina senior Parvanay Sariri said, “A cinematic masterpiece. It made me leap from my chair like no other movie. Such animated scenes, even though it wasn’t animated. So engaging, so intimate, so conscious. Profound, I may add.”

While the film had its successes, I’m disappointed to say it was underwhelming in almost every other aspect. For one, the horror factor that the games possessed was practically nonexistent onscreen. The animatronics, which are the face of the franchise and the driving force behind what makes it so horrifying, paled in comparison to how they were depicted in the games. Even though the PG-13 rating was certainly limiting in terms of what could be included in the film, the franchise is so heavily reliant on jump scares to earn screams that I was more shocked by the lack of these scare tactics than the very few present jump scares themselves. 

In her review of “Five Nights at Freddy’s” in The New York Times, film critic Natalia Winkelman said, “This adaptation of a video game franchise is more interested in unpacking childhood trauma than packing in jump scares.”

That isn’t to say it was completely uninteresting; it definitely had its moments. Overall, however, there weren’t many scenes that made me hide behind my hands in fear of what was to come, and the genuinely unnerving moments were scarce and somewhat repetitive. Additionally, there was a vast amount of inconsistencies and plot holes. I didn’t necessarily mind it during my first watch, but after seeing it a second time I started noticing how much went unexplained. To name a few, Abby’s knowledge of the missing children and their true identities are never touched upon, Vanessa’s seemingly infinite amount of free time to spend with the Schmidt siblings is never questioned, the crimes committed by the animatronics during Mike’s employment are never revisited, the death of Mike and Abby’s aunt is never acknowledged by the two, and the motive behind what William did is never discussed. I wasn’t truly satisfied with the film’s conclusion because of how many loose ends were present throughout, but I’m keeping my hopes up that the sequel will provide some answers.

Nevertheless, it was fascinating to witness a video game that was a childhood staple for so many be transformed in such a way. If there is one lesson to be taken away from “Five Nights at Freddy’s,” it’s this: sometimes, the most terrifying thing about a story revolving around possessed animatronics and murderous company founders is a “Jaws”-esque pink cupcake with an affinity for human flesh.

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About the Contributor
Charlotte Frazzini
Charlotte Frazzini, Staff Reporter
I'm a senior at Regina Dominican High School and this is my first year working on the Crown. At school, I'm involved in Alliance, Ambassadors Club, Art Club, DEI, and Leadership Scholars. In my free time, I like to draw, listen to music, play video games, watch movies/TV shows, write, read, sing, and play volleyball. I'm interested in pursuing a career in filmmaking and plan to study it in college. One fun fact about me is that I have three dogs: Chaucer, Marlowe, and Lola!

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