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Pru’s boo reviews: ‘Five Nights at Freddy’s’ fails to frighten

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Rian Hughes

“Five Nights at Freddy’s” started life in 2014 as an indie PC game. The premise was straightforward: the player is a security guard working the night shift at a Chuck E. Cheese-like pizzeria. As the night progresses, the player must evade several murderous animatronic animals by surveilling several security cameras and operating a set of doors. If one of the animatronics, such as the titular Freddy, a top hat-wearing bear, appears before the night is over, the player loses. Rinse and repeat five times over. A multi-million dollar horror franchise was born, encompassing video games, novels and comics and cultivating a massive fandom. This month, “Five Nights at Freddy’s” finally came to the big screen. 

It’s safe to say that it should have stayed on the small ones.

 “Five Nights at Freddy’s” stars Josh Hutcherson as Mike, a mall security guard who has been unable to hold a job for longer than a few months. This is a problem because he’s attempting to care for his younger sister, Abby, and fend off their conniving Aunt Jane from seizing custody of her. After he’s fired from his latest security gig, a desperate Mike visits career counselor Steve Raglan, played by Matthew Lillard, who offers him the night shift guarding a decrepit pizza joint: Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza. The establishment, Lillard explains, is prone to break-ins since it was shuttered in the 1980s.

What Raglan fails to mention to Mike is that Fazbear’s is populated by several killer animatronics. What Mike simultaneously neglects to bring up with Raglan is that he’s prone to sleeping on the job. Mike is terrorized by nightmares about his younger brother’s kidnapping, which he failed to prevent when he was a child, and he takes sleeping pills to get through the night. These two issues merge during Mike’s first shift, where he falls asleep and sees several ghost children in his dreams. Somehow, he deduces that these ghost children must know something about his brother’s kidnapping. The film goes off the rails from there.

The problems with “Freddy’s” aren’t just the mediocre performances. They aren’t because of its shoddy CGI, nor in the PG-13 scare factor. The film’s issues derive from the decision to turn a very simple horror concept into a confusing and complicated story about “ghost children possessing giant robots,” as Mike puts it late in the film. The source material would suggest a paranoid and claustrophobic feature film adaptation. Instead, “Freddy’s” immediately jumps the animatronic shark. 

When something as outlandish as a ghost child and a giant robotic bear breaking into a house and convincing a small child to return to an abandoned pizzeria in the middle of the night in a taxi is the rising action of your film, you have to have a sense of humor about it. “Freddy’s” does not; the film plays itself seriously the entire way through, led by Hutcherson’s straight-man performance as Mike. The result is a pile of parts that don’t fit together, like an animatronic way past its prime. Even scenes where, for instance, several robotic animals tickle a child so hard it sounds like she’s screaming are played like the peak of horror, instead of the campy goofiness they might have been with a smarter script.

The film has a confusing tone in its horror sequences too. A PG-13 rating doesn’t square well with R-rated execution. In one scene, a CGIed animatronic cupcake chomping harmlessly on a character’s leg is meant to be terrifying. In another, a woman is brutally split in half in Freddy’s robotic jaws. Neither scene works. The film is both too tame for gore and too self-important for silliness. Additionally, despite the title’s promise of five nights of terror at Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzeria, the only real horror in the restaurant occurs in broad daylight when Aunt Jane’s goons encounter the robots after breaking in during the day. Why Mike is hired for the night shift as the Freddy’s security guard when it only gets broken into during the day is left as a mystery in the script.

In fact, most of the horror scenes in the film have nothing to do with the movie’s animatronic characters. Every one of the five nights in “Freddy’s” is preoccupied with mild variations on the same dream sequence. Mike falls asleep at his desk. Mike has a nightmare about his kidnapped brother. Ghost children appear. Mike wakes up. It’s a strange adaptation of the vigilant night watchman of the games. Even when Mike passes out at Freddy’s there are little consequences for his sleepiness. Far from the game mechanic of avoiding the robots, the film’s animatronics appear most frequently in direct interactions with Mike, Abby and Vanessa, a police officer prone to long monologues of exposition. Without their nighttime reign of terror, Freddy and company have a significantly diminished fear factor.

“Five Nights at Freddy’s” is hard to recommend for fans or newcomers. Devotees to the franchise will be frustrated by the film’s deviation from series lore and underuse of the animatronic characters. Uninitiated audiences, meanwhile, can find much better places to feast their eyes than Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza. However, considering the film made over $100 million in what Forbes reports as the biggest ever opening for a Halloween weekend release, it’s likely we’ll be seeing a sixth night at Freddy’s soon enough.

 

Rating: 1.5/5 Yosefs

 

Kaitlyn Close
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About the Contributors
Pruett Norris
Pruett Norris, Multimedia Editor
Pruett Norris (he/him) is a senior double majoring in English with a concentration in Film Studies and Electronic Media/Broadcasting. This is his second year with The Appalachian.
Kaitlyn Close
Kaitlyn Close, Graphics Editor
Kaitlyn Close (she/her) is a senior Graphic Design major and Digital Marketing minor. This is her second year with The Appalachian.
Rian Hughes
Rian Hughes, Associate Graphics Editor
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  • F

    Freddy FazbearNov 7, 2023 at 12:16 pm

    Five Nights at Freddy’s is a movie that was very deserving of the big screens. It had its issues however, being primarily written by the games creator who doesn’t have a lot of experience with movie scripts. Although, this article misses the issues the movie has and picks random points that aren’t factual as the issues.
    “Somehow, he deduces that these ghost children must know something about his brother’s kidnapping.” The plot point the movie created to support this, is that Mike has a theory that in you remember everything and you can unlock this in your dreams, hence him assuming these children also saw his brothers kidnapping and would be able to help provide information regarding it.
    “The film’s issues derive from the decision to turn a very simple horror concept into a confusing and complicated story about “ghost children possessing giant robots,”” This is the horror concept that was created from the very first game, it is not the films adaptation, it was always there.
    “…a CGIed animatronic cupcake chomping harmlessly on a character’s leg is meant to be terrifying.” The cupcake was not CGI, all of the animatronics were practical. There are moments where there is CGI, but classifying the whole of a character as essentially a CGI Jumpscare is unfair.
    “Devotees to the franchise will be frustrated by the film’s deviation from series lore and underuse of the animatronic characters.” Devotees to the franchise will be thrilled with the moments of Easter eggs and fan service that are hidden throughout this movie and the animatronics are used the entire time.

    Some issues I have with this movie is they don’t successfully build a threat for horror, and I do agree the nights to spend too much time in the dream world. But this movie does have scares and is an excellent example of a first horror movie. The franchise creator has already announced he’s been very receptive of the critiques with this movie, and I have high hopes that the sequel will be even better.

    Reply