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“Five Nights at Freddy’s”: A flawed yet enjoyable horror movie

Getty Images/Universal Pictures
“Five Nights at Freddy’s” is now in theaters such as B&B Theaters, Cinemark, and streaming on Peacock. The movie is rated PG-13 and produced by Blumhouse Productions.

“Five Nights at Freddy’s,” one of the biggest horror video game franchises of the 2010s. After nine video games and what seemed like an eternity to those passionate about the series, the big animatronic bear named Freddy finally gets his own movie at the hands of Blumhouse Productions.

“Five Nights at Freddy’s” stars Josh Hutcherson as the security guard Mike Schmidt, Elizabeth Lail as police officer Vanessa, and Matthew Lillard in the mysterious role of Steve Raglan.

The movie follows Schmidt trying to juggle his life between finding a new job, taking care of his younger sister, discovering the secrets of his past, all leading him to Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzeria. There he encounters animatronics Freddy Fazbear, Bonnie, Chica, and Foxy, where not everything is as it seems.

To start, Lillard was a clear standout in this movie. Even with his limited time on screen, Lillard always stole the show whenever he appeared. Lillard’s character gave an eerie presence that matched the video game every time he showed up, which amplified the tone of the movie where some of the other actors could not. Hutcherson also did a very good job at portraying the character of Schmidt, the nightguard. Although his character does not have any lines of dialogue in the video games, Hutcherson gave new depth to the character that you never get from the video games.

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“Five Nights at Freddy’s” was a movie made for lifelong fans of the game.

A lot of this movie is filled with story and references to the games. Only longtime fans of this game series will understand some small parts of this movie. As a fan of the video games, I found myself really enjoying this movie and the references it made to the games. It was filled with secrets that do not take away from the movie if you do not understand them, but if you do, they just add that much more to the experience.

In the game, you play as Hutcherson’s character, the security guard, trying to survive in the security office for five nights, while Fazbear and the others try to break into the office, with each night getting progressively harder. In the movie interpretation, Schmidt encounters Fazbear and the others also trying to get to him, but Schmidt is not contained within the security office on the big screen. You get to see Schmidt interact with others outside of the job, building on the story which is not present in past games.

With such high expectations from Blumhouse trying to cram a nine-game long story into a two-hour movie, you will notice that not each detail from every game is present. Similar to this year’s “The Super Mario Bros.,” “Five Nights at Freddy’s” stuck to the first and earlier games and included smaller elements from later games when it came to the storyline, which kept it nice and contained. That was satisfying.

This movie also had an amazing production design. Almost every shot inside of Freddy Fazbear’s looked either amazing and true to the video game, or it sparked the gloomy fear that the game also gives off. The animatronics used for Freddy, Chica, Bonnie, and Foxy looked almost identical to the original video game. No complaints there at all.

However, with all of the good out of the way, some things in this movie hold it back from its true potential. The third act of “Five Nights at Freddy’s” was very rushed. It feels like when all of the hour and a half leading up to the climax comes, the peak of the movie only lasts for about three minutes until everything is resolved. Disappointing because the scenes including the animatronics during the climax of the story looked near perfect, it just did not last long enough for the story to fully flesh out.

Another problem Blumhouse faced during the production was the horror aspect of this movie. With the games known for being scary, the movie interpretation was lacking. There were very few times in the movie that would be considered highly intense scenes, which is not what you would look for in a horror movie. Blumhouse Productions kept the “Five Nights at Freddy’s” movie a PG-13 movie, most likely so the movie would appeal more to families with younger children, which made it feel like it was being held back at times. There were little to no visible kills on-screen in this “horror” movie.

While it was expected that the security guard would be the main character, having such a small amount of screen time for your title character also disappointed me with this movie. Fazbear has the potential to be a horror icon up there with Ghostface from the “Scream” franchise and Michael Myers from the “Halloween” franchise. But, Fazbear and the others did not have enough screen time in this movie to the point where sometimes it felt like they were sidelined.

All in all, “Five Nights at Freddy’s” is a horror movie that plays it safe and is no doubt worth a watch if you are a fan of the game. This movie also has pretty good playback value, as I can see myself going back to this movie to rewatch it with friends and family. It was a good movie that made its runtime fly by.

This movie scores 3.5/5 stars from me. 

This story was originally published on The Talon on October 27, 2023.