‘Five Nights at Freddy’s’ doesn’t capture the horror of the games

Courtesy of Universal Pictures

Based on the extremely popular video game from 2012, “Five Nights at Freddy’s” just hit the big screens on Oct. 27.

The game “Five Nights at Freddy’s” (FNaF) has you play as a security guard hired to work the night shift at Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza. In the game, you must use lights, cameras, vents and more to survive the animatronics that come to life at night. 

The world of FNaF goes far beyond the gameplay and into a whirlwind of lore and easter eggs, like “The Bite of 83”. With FNaF spanning five separate games, spin-offs and a novel trilogy, there’s plenty for fans to dive into. And now, Blumhouse Productions has released a movie based on the fan-favorite game.

“Five Nights at Freddy’s” follows Mike (Josh Hutcherson) as he desperately takes a job working the security night shift at Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza. Although things seem normal at first, because the first night is always the easiest, things soon start to become strange. 

One night, he’s visited by police officer Vanessa (Elizabeth Lail) who begins to warn him of the horrific past of Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza. Despite her knowledge of the kids who disappeared at the restaurant, she still holds a soft spot for the place and its beloved animatronics; Freddy, Bonnie, Foxy, Chica and Cupcake.

Then when his babysitter is unavailable, Mike brings his little sister, Abby (Piper Rubio), to work the night shift with him. When she meets Freddy and his friends, she forms a strange and unlikely friendship with them, and Mike must fight to keep her, and himself, safe from the animatronics.

Once Blumhouse announced they would be creating a movie based on the game, fans went wild. The opportunity to see the elaborate world of FNaF, one of the scariest games created, on the big screen had fans of all ages ecstatic.

The “Five Nights at Freddy’s” movie has a lot to live up to, since the original game has been known for terrifying those who dare to play it. But unfortunately, the movie didn’t hold the same scare factor as the games.

According to IMDB, “Five Nights at Freddy’s” is rated PG-13 for “strong violent content, bloody images and language”.

There were some moments throughout “Five Nights at Freddy’s” that gave me hope for this to be absolutely horrifying, but truly scary moments were few and far between. Minimal jumpscares, occasional gore and limited suspense left me feeling disappointed.

Although I understand the intent of targeting this film towards teenagers, the majority of FNaF fans are somewhat older generations, such as Millennials and older Gen-Z’s. Those who are 13 now, would have been only four years old when the first FNaF game came out.

Blumhouse missed its target audience. Had the film been rated R, and featured a lot more thrills and gore, “Five Nights at Freddy’s” would have been a true horror movie — rather than a movie with some horror aspects — and would have been just as fear-inducing as the game.

The oddest aspect of “Five Nights at Freddy’s” was the way they tried to humanize the possessed animatronics. In a world where Freddy and his friends are trying to terrorize the security guard, it didn’t make sense for the writers to try and paint the animatronics out to be “good guys” or even “not bad guys”.

Some fans are defending the director’s decision to humanize the animatronics, saying the animatronics should act childish because they’re possessed by kids. But for a horror movie, it just didn’t work. Seeing Freddy and his friends as anything other than horrifically evil made the film lose its momentum. It’s hard to be scared of something when you feel bad for it. 

One thing that “Five Nights at Freddy’s” went above and beyond on, however, was its casting. Josh Hutcherson — famous for his roles as Peeta in “The Hunger Games” franchise, Walter in “Zathura” and Sean in “Journey to the Center of the Earth” — played his role almost perfectly. He was enjoyable to watch and interacted with the animatronics well.

Matthew Lillard — famous for playing Stu Macher in the “Scream” franchise and Shaggy in the live-action “Scooby-Doo” movies — made an iconic return to the horror scene as Steve Raglan. Don’t let his seemingly uninteresting character fool you… Lillard has some tricks and twists up his sleeve that will make OG game fans happy.

Fans got a very special surprise when Youtuber MatPat had a brief cameo in the film. MatPat, known for his game theory channel where he avidly posts theories on FNaF lore, shocked fans when he appeared on screen as a waiter. This cameo sparked conversation about Markiplier, another famous FNaF loving YouTuber who was also set to have a cameo, but had to drop out due to scheduling conflicts.

According to Forbes Magazine, “He would have been front and center playing the first security guard in the film’s opening… That role was instead played by actor Ryan Reinike, who is not involved in any sort of inside joke casting.”

Another feature of the film that was beyond impressive, was the animatronics. While on the surface they’re cool, they become absolutely fascinating when you learn there was absolutely no CGI used in creating them, and that they’re all practical.

All of the animatronics are just that — real animatronics operated by puppeteers from the Jim Henson Creature Shop. Which makes you wonder… Did they learn nothing from the games? Aside from the possibility of real-life evil animatronics, they were truly impressive. 

The movie is receiving a variety of feedback, both positive and negative. As of Oct. 29, “Five Nights at Freddy’s” has a 26% critics score and an 88% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes. But one thing is undeniable, FNaF is already breaking records.

A tweet from Jason Blum, CEO of Blumhouse Productions, read, “And it’s official. We did something else. Biggest Blumhouse opening movie of all time. Thank you again #FNAF fans.” 

Although “Five Nights at Freddy’s” had its great moments, overall it didn’t live up to the hype people have been giving it for months. It’s a great entry-level horror film for teenagers looking to dive into the world of scary movies, but Blumhouse failed to take hold of its prime audience.

Had “Five Nights at Freddy’s” contained more gore, jumpscares, suspense and lore, it could have been one of the best horror films released in a long time.

“Five Nights at Freddy’s” is playing in theaters now and is also available to stream exclusively on Peacock.

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