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‘Five Nights at Freddy’s’: For the kids

| Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Ethan Chiang | The Observer

Editor’s note: This article contains spoilers for the “Five Nights at Freddy’s” movie

How do I summarize “Five Nights at Freddy’s?” I wouldn’t know where to start, primarily a consequence of my unfamiliarity with the series. Despite growing up when the series was at its highest popularity, I have never touched a game in the franchise. However, I have plenty of friends who were interested in the series, so I’ve picked some facts up along the way. 

From what I understand, Freddy Fazbear is an animatronic frontman and gang leader who is possessed by a child’s ghost. His friends and fellow animatronics exist in a similar manner. This is all put incredibly simply, but it is all I knew going into the movie and all you really need to know. Unlike diehard fans, I could not anticipate characters and settings they know and love, dampening my enthusiasm. All I could look forward to was the general idea of “What if Chuck E. Cheese was evil?” 

My biggest source of excitement in the lead-up to the film’s release was the involvement of the Jim Henson Company. These craftsmen — creators of iconic characters such as the Muppets — expertly designed the film’s villainous animatronics, which looked accurate to an uncanny degree. At times, I questioned if the effects were real or animated. 

These games also appeal to a younger demographic than might be expected from a horror franchise. The film’s PG-13 rating definitely creates availability to wider audiences, but the film at times feels hampered by the awareness that children are watching. Violence is typically cut away from to show only the aftermath, with one exception. The film’s most notable “scary” moment is when a character is sucked into the mouth of an animatronic as we see their silhouette bit in half. This genuinely well-done and well-executed kill should be representative of the film’s tone, but instead feels jarring and unfitting compared to the rest of the movie. 

The film referenced things other than just the original source material. Horror movie icon Matthew Lillard stars, known for his roles in films such as “Scream” and the live-action “Scooby-Doo” movies. At one point in the film, his character handles a knife in a manner clearly reminiscent of his villainous turn in “Scream.” The casting of Lillard as the film’s villain is a brilliant decision, as the manipulative demeanor of his character is showcased in his great and dynamic performance. In true horror movie fashion, his character yells “I always come back” before he is dealt the killing blow. This is, apparently, another reference to the games, but I anticipate his inevitable return in a sequel.

I am not the target audience for this film. I am fully aware of that, and I am also aware that my separation from the source material impacts how I view the movie. That being said, I find it hard to appreciate the movie on its own merits. I was rarely scared. The film’s most impressive kill left me uncomfortable due to the tonal shift rather than the disturbing sequence which had just played out. The central creatures did not leave me shocked or scared, but rather simply in awe of the impressive practical effects. However, I had a fun time watching it, and sometimes that is all that matters. If you’re a fan of the series I am certain you will enjoy it. Even if you don‘t, hop along for the ride — it’s a fun trip.

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