Movies based on video games are entering some sort of a renaissance after years of mediocre outings. These adaptations usually failed to satisfy both general audiences and fans of the source material while garnering movie studios little to no profit. This seems to have been mitigated in recent years with plenty of silver-screen adaptations of video games which satisfied their fanbase, while also opening the door to new audiences who’ve never encountered them.
“Detective Pikachu” served as the first surprise, being liked by Pokemon fans all over the world and even getting people who were detached from the franchise, such as myself, to have a few good laughs. The “Sonic the Hedgehog” movies proved to be love letters to the franchise in their own way and got new people interested in the blue icon (as some of my friends and my fiancee could attest). While lacking in substance, even “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” from earlier this year was an enjoyable time and currently sits as the first video game adaptation to make over a billion dollars.
However, not all success stories occur without some stumbles along the way, which is why we’re gathered here today. After 9 years of promises, studio changes, delays upon delays, and director changes, “Five Nights at Freddy’s” finally jump-scared into theaters and streaming platforms just in time for Halloween. Considering the phenomenon which was “Five Nights at Freddy’s” in the video game scene, both mainstream and indie, this movie is quite a big deal in its own way, and I’m sure the feedback is going to be divisive, to say the least.
Full disclosure: I’m NOT a “Five Nights at Freddy’s” fan. Horror was never one of my interests, especially with the game building up to jump scares through anticipation and sound. I’ll admit, the thought alone causes me jitters, which is why I never played it for myself. With that being said, I did get involved with the franchise through some Let’s Plays, and MatPat’s theory videos which made for interesting story pieces. Say what you will about the guy, but Scott Cawthon taking something that didn’t work and turning it into a mega-franchise is an inspiring tale for which I’ll always give him credit.
I’m also willing to admit that I was cautiously optimistic about the movie, or at the very least interested. FNaF is a franchise that relies a lot on the "show don’t tell" ethos, leaving players to figure out the story on their own. While there were books that contained a full-on story as opposed to hints at one, I was curious as to how they were going to turn a deceptively simple story into a structured plot with three acts. Matthew Lillard being cast in the project was the selling point for me and so, it was finally time to go and see what the final result would be like.
This movie is terrible… and I loved every second of it!
For the sake of formalities; “Five Nights at Freddy’s” tells the story of Mike Schmidt who takes the job of a security guard in an abundant pizzeria in which the animatronics roam free during the night. Why would one take on such a dangerous job? He needs to support himself and his little sister, Abby, or their estranged aunt will have custody of Abby. In addition to that, Mike is also dealing with the loss of his little brother, which might be somehow connected to the pizzeria. While this plot summary seems to give you what you would expect out of a “Five Nights at Freddy’s” movie, it doesn’t really deliver on the premise in the long run.
The story is poorly put together and contains many plot lines that could have been cut out of the movie entirely. The characters, while not terrible, aren’t particularly interesting either, and their motivations feel forced half the time. And I know that it’s kind of moot to complain about those things in a horror movie… but even the horror isn’t good. In fact, I laughed out loud in this horror movie more than I did in any comedy I’ve seen in recent years! There are some creepy moments in the movie for sure, but no part which is meant to be scary actually ends up being scary; especially when they rely too much on jump scares.
I guess it’s true to the game, but what made the source material nerve-wracking wasn’t the jump scares, it was the anticipation of them, and knowing that they’re going to come when you least expect them if you’re not quick enough to react to the animatronics in time. It's one thing when you know one is coming and you have the ability to avoid it if you’re good enough, but it's just not effective if they’re just a scripted event you can tell is coming. Since this is a movie, the latter is the case here, and it makes the actual horror parts of this horror movie feel cheap and very much not scary.
The biggest crime, however, are the animatronics themselves. The faces of this franchise, the ones who scared all the gamers worldwide and have their faces burned into Markiplier’s subconscious, the ones on the poster; they’re the weakest part of this entire movie and it feels so disappointing. Only ONE sequence in the entire movie involves them actually killing people, and even then the violence is heavily censored and their threatening presence isn’t coming through at all. I guess it was done to lower the age restriction and allow the kids in the fandom to see this movie, which honestly freaks me out more than the killer animatronics. The censoring, or attempts to censor, are not only ridiculous but also don’t show these characters doing what the audience wants them to do.
Not to say it’s all doom and gloom as the animatronics themselves look spot-on. I commend the effects team for actually making them animatronics and not resorting to CGI. Jim Henson Studios did a phenomenal job with these things and there are moments in which The Sunshine Gang look extremely creepy in their movement and how they’re interacting with the actors. It’s such a shame that they’re not allowed to move much or do anything once they’re actually on-screen.
Baffling doesn’t even begin to describe the lack of… anything the animatronics actually do. I get that in the game they don’t move much in order to build the tension and due to the low budget. But this is a movie that has the animatronics there, physically on-set, and yet they rarely do anything besides standing there and maybe moving their body parts around. Besides the one sequence I described earlier, these haunted monsters which show up in the poster, do nothing besides look creepy and it’s so LAME! They have no character and have little to no effect on the story or any sort of presence.
Imagine if in, the Sonic movies, Sonic didn’t run fast or beat up robots besides just one scene? Imagine if Mario wouldn’t have jumped on enemies or eaten a mushroom once in the entirety of the runtime. These characters were created to kill! They were a parody of how creepy animatronics at mascot restaurants look! The hook of this entire thing… is close to non-existent in this movie. I’ll do even better: Chicka’s cupcake has a higher body count than all 4 animatronics combined! The cupcake! I thought that having 10 fact videos dedicated to it was ridiculous but I must admit, I’m impressed.
So I know what you’re thinking. “Wow, he just bashed that movie all the way through. He must have hated it.” Well… if you looked at the title for this review, I didn’t hate the movie at all. In fact, I had an absolute blast watching it! It’s unfocused and poorly put-together, the scary parts are hilarious, and the animatronics got snubbed from any chances to shine, but that’s what makes it so fascinating to me and what gave me the most enjoyment if that makes any sense.
How did any of this get the green light? How could 9 years of trying to perfect this idea end up with this mess? Who thought downplaying the main stars of the franchise was a good idea? Who decided to have all of these unnecessary plot lines, which have nothing to do with the games and amount to nothing by the end? Why bother aiming this towards kids? All of these questions, and more, will probably never be answered… and I don’t want them answered because they led to one of the most fun times I had with a movie in a good while. There are rare moments in which questioning what you’re watching and accepting the insanity leads to plenty of fun, and “Five Nights at Freddy’s” delivered on that front!
What made this mess of a movie so delightful to figure out, however, is the cherry on top. The creme de la creme. This pineapple on top of this terrible Freddy Fazebear pizza. The game’s creator, Scott Cawthon, was heavily involved with the production of the movie. He was a producer, came up with the story, and even took part in writing the screenplay! While he shared those duties with other people, he was involved in each and every one of those decisions and most likely saw what we’re now seeing more times than he could count. This is honestly the most tragic joke I’ve ever witnessed.
How did any of that get past, or even approved, by him!? We’re not talking about an out-of-touch producer or studio manager; we’re talking about THE GUY who gave us this franchise in the first place. The one who gave people nightmares. The one who drove theorists into madness. The person to whom we owe the existence of this brand… allowed ALL of this to happen. That simple fact, my friends, is what made this entire experience unbelievable! This underwhelming mess which I was ready to declare as a pathetic excuse by a studio that clearly didn’t know or understand the source material, was worked on and approved by the person who created it.
I will, most likely, never get answers as to how any of this was approved, but I did get to experience a confused and messy film that I’m going to remember forever! This movie isn’t good by any stretch of the imagination but wow is it entertaining in how confusing it is! If you’re looking for a decent horror movie you won’t find it here, and I honestly have no idea how fans of the franchise will treat this movie. However, if you’re looking for an absolute riot of a time and think you can brave the poor filmmaking to have a few laughs, then get some friends, a couple of beers, and maybe a pizza, and I assure you that enjoyment will be found!
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