The Five Nights at Freddy’s movie didn’t understand the assignment
Oct 28, 2023
Five Nights at Freddy’s didn’t have a single scary moment for me but the energy from the audience saved this review.
Based on a popular survival horror game, Five Nights at Freddy’s has been a largely hyped up movie since it was announced earlier this year. The amount of TikToks and YouTube videos I’ve seen about this movie have more than proven the passion of the game’s young fanbase, most likely the reason it was being adapted into a film for theaters.
Unfortunately, I don’t think anyone beyond hardcore fans of the series will get much enjoyment out of this film. But does that really matter?
Five Nights at Freddy’s misses what made the games so popular
Five Nights at Freddy’s instantly blew up thanks to big-name streamers with young audiences doing playthroughs of the game. Kids started to play the game themselves to experience the eerie atmosphere and tense gameplay firsthand.
While fan art and obsessive fans started to bring the game’s lore into the spotlight, the initial reason that Five Nights at Freddy’s became so big was the incredibly creepy designs and how pulse-pounding and immersive the game felt.
In the game series, you play as a security guard who is attempting to escape from malfunctioned and possessed animatronics that will find you based on security camera footage and sound. You find yourself hiding anxiously in the game, holding your breath as you anticipate a possible jump scare since the characters appear right before your eyes.
Unfortunately, the movie took away from this very immersive and intense atmosphere by creating a very unnecessarily long backstory to the security guard. The film begins very slowly, taking us through the day in the life of a struggling guy named Mike who can’t seem to keep a job or take proper care of his sister because he’s too absorbed by a traumatizing event that happened during his childhood.
It meanders through the pointlessly drawn-out situations that eventually lead to him needing to take an overnight security job at an abandoned pizza place. We are given some hints throughout that something bigger is happening and we start to see a dark mystery unfold.
The twists weren’t too bad, but I was often left wondering if this was more of a drama rather than a scary movie. The jump scares were not really all too frightening (the audience also didn’t scream almost ever — and this was opening night surrounded by fans and teens) because the atmosphere didn’t have that intense buildup of the game and we felt pretty far removed from the location. The imagery was also not really all too eerie and I didn’t get the sense that there was a truly disturbing atmosphere.
The film really missed the mark when it came to building up suspense and creating tension within each scene.
I recall a movie called Hardcore Henry, the first movie to really be fully first-person. It gave some viewers a bit of a headache but I honestly wonder if this could have worked better for Five Nights at Freddy’s instead of forcing us to care about this pretty miserable and boring guy.
Similar to the game itself, this kind of interesting perspective would make us feel as if we are in the pizza place and could really keep the focus on the animatronics and the feeling of being watched, stalked, and hunted down.
Five Nights at Freddy’s relates to audience wrong
The audience at my showing of Five Nights at Freddy’s really made me appreciate the film more. But I noticed that they reacted the most to in-game references that were inconsequential to the film itself and felt more like easter eggs rather than jump scares or actual important plot points.
This made me feel as if the movie missed the mark in many ways. Yes, it referenced the game. But it only referenced the game in ways that didn’t really matter, like inside jokes about objects you find in the game or surprise appearances of actors. The plot itself didn’t seem to capture the magic or scares of Five Nights at Freddy’s at all.
The focus was largely on the main character’s obsession with his past rather than building up the tension at Freddy Fasbear’s. In fact, tons of scenes didn’t take place anywhere near the restaurant. The animatronics sometimes felt like an afterthought and were treated almost as comical in many moments.
In my opinion, Five Nights at Freddy’s lacked tension, scary moments, and overall creepiness. Instead, it felt like a family drama with some paranormal elements and a few spooky scenes. If I had never heard of the games at all, I would think this movie was, honestly, pretty terrible. Knowing it’s based on a game somewhat helped but also made me think about how far removed it felt from the reason Five Nights became such a phenomenon.
You’d probably be better off spending the night playing a horror game if you want to feel actually spooked this season.
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