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The student news site of Moravian University

The Comenian

The student news site of Moravian University

The Comenian

‘Five Nights At Freddy’s’ (2023)

Survival of the Silliest
Photo Courtesy of
Photo Courtesy of

Who wouldn’t want to spend five nights at a run-down Chuck E. Cheese-esque establishment?  

When you think Five Nights at Freddy’s, you might think of overly fixated middle schoolers, that one (or multiple depending on how insane you are) Living Tombstone song that lives in everyone’s minds rent-free, or Markiplier memes involving a certain incident in 1987. 

Like many neurotic individuals, FNAF consumed my middle school years. My friends and I would sneak our phones under lunch tables and play the games, seeking that jumpscare adrenaline. And if we weren’t doing that, we were into the lore and trying our best to be like MatPat because hey, it’s all “just a theory.” 

Of course, FNAF isn’t the most scary game and the jumpscares can get stale for anyone over the age of 12. Not to mention that it doesn’t even feel like a “horror” franchise anymore (Was it really one to begin with?) but that doesn’t undermine how insanely popular this game has become. 

And unlike (try-hard) modern games in the indie survival horror genre with childlike aesthetics, it excels with its lore and does not take itself too seriously which I appreciate.

Nine years and countless sequels, book releases, and fan-made games later, we finally have a Five Nights At Freddy’s film on the silver screen. Produced by Blumhouse Productions, this film was immensely hyped by depressingly nostalgic adults like me. 

Did I go into it knowing it was not going to be a cinematic masterpiece? Yes!

Did I still somewhat enjoy myself and the whimsy of it all? Also yes!

I can say with confidence that this movie does have some cinematic merit to it. I think in terms of unsettling immersion, this movie excels. The run-down pizzeria establishment setting is a well-designed location and does capture the eerie ambiance of the games. 

Speaking more on great designs, the animatronics are genuinely fantastic even when they can be a little unnerving to look at because of their huge statures. Our beloved Freddy, Bonnie, Chica, and Foxy are just the right mixture of cool and creepy, and the fact that they were puppeteered by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop is undeniably awesome. There are points in the film where they are also strangely wholesome with the main characters since they are intrinsically children. 

This film tends to lean more towards the lore side of the games. I don’t necessarily mind this because it can be a good way of reeling in those who haven’t been into Five Nights At Freddy’s before and longtime fans of the games who can catch easter eggs in nearly every scene. And let me say, the easter eggs and surprise cameos were decent additions and didn’t detract from the story so I’m glad they were included. 

Additionally, the lore weaves in with the internal conflicts of our main character, Mike Schmidt, played by Josh Hutcherson. 

Mike is a failed mall security guard who has a hard time keeping a job. He has custody of his younger sister, Abby, and takes up a job as a night shift security guard at Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzeria so social services and his aunt don’t take her away from him. He also suffers from traumatic dream sequences involving his kidnapped brother and each time he has these surreal dreams that replay his brother being taken away, something new happens. 

These sequences enhance the film’s disjointed lore and unnerving feel of the film, somewhat compensating for the not-so-stellar plot devices and “horror” aspects. 

And when I mean “horror” aspects, I don’t really mean the jumpscares. I’m mainly referring to gore. I understand that this movie may not have needed an R rating nor did it need to hammer grotesque carnage but the lack of that “horror” punchiness makes the movie fall flat. And even with its PG-13 rating, they could afford to sprinkle in more semi-graphic scenes to convey how haunted the establishment is. 

As for the plot, aside from the lore, it doesn’t really do it for me either. The first 30 minutes feel painfully slow to get through and I’m already impatient to just get to the pizzeria itself and see all those quirky animatronics. 

Once we do get to the pizzeria, it starts to pick up the pace and the movie becomes mildly enjoyable and, as I mentioned earlier, wholesome. When the animatronics are not trying to be menacing, they bond with Mike and Abby, building pillow forts with them and giving them hugs. This wholesomeness, of course, doesn’t last but still, it was a short and sweet detour for the movie and, like the games, it doesn’t take itself too seriously. 

However, the rest of the film suffers from a rushed ending. 

For instance, the villain “reveal” is so agonizingly abrupt. When William Afton, played by Matthew Lillard, was finally introduced, I was puzzled as to why he wasn’t hinted at throughout the movie and why it took so long for him to show up. And it’s a shame because William Afton is the most enjoyable, entertainingly theatrical character and they really missed the mark on making his entrance more substantial than it was. 

Now, I say William Afton is the most enjoyable character in the film and I am not exaggerating. While the other characters aren’t bad, they aren’t well characterized either. 

I wanted to like Mike more and I was fascinated by his internal struggles but he lacked a fervent personality. Although there are other ways to write a younger sister archetype aside from being just bratty and stubborn, I didn’t have that much of a problem with Abby since her behavior stems from trauma. And Vanessa, a local police officer, was too frustratingly vague, and enigmatic for me to care about her. 

By the end of the film, I couldn’t help but think, “That was certainly a movie,” and yeah, it was a movie if I had ever seen one. Not a great one, or one that made any impression on me as a former Fazbear fanatic but a passable one. 

Besides, I knew what I was getting into. I wasn’t here at my local movie theater at 10 p.m. on a Friday with my best friend, Alex, to dissect intricately advanced plot threads and cinematic choices. I was there for nostalgia…and because of my renewed crush on Josh Hutcherson. 

But, for what it’s worth, it thankfully wasn’t dreadfully horrible and I don’t think it should be clowned too much. 

Was the movie worth it after being stuck in production purgatory for eight years? Not really. 

Was it worth people having literal fistfights over it during the credits and stealing posters? Absolutely not!

But, if you’re a former FNAF fixator, see the film for the funky easter eggs, unironically entertaining cameos, and slice-of-life scenes. And if you were blessed enough to not be caught in the FNAF firestorm from 2014-2016, just check out the games or some Let’s Plays. I personally would recommend Five Nights at Freddy’s: Help Wanted because it combines nearly all the games in a much more unsettling VR setting and is loaded with more complex lore. 

I would give this movie a 6.5/10. If you happen to see it, be weary because diehard FNAF fans tend to get a bit quirky at theaters. 

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    AlexNov 10, 2023 at 11:25 am

    I loved watching this and it wouldn’t been as fun if I went without you! It was such a great time, especially pointing out specific details and little easter eggs! Another banger article!
    (Thanks for the shout out!!!)