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The Quinnipiac Chronicle

The Student News Site of Quinnipiac University

The Quinnipiac Chronicle

Robot bears and jump scares: Enjoy a shift at ‘Five Nights at Freddy’s’

Kaya Donah

While Halloween weekend is one of the most exciting times every year, things were extra special for “Halloweekend” 2023. A film that has been in the works for eight years, the on-screen adaptation of the popular horror video game franchise “Five Nights At Freddy’s,” finally hit theaters and streaming on Peacock.

“FNAF” first dropped in 2014 as a point-and-click survival game where you play as a security guard working at an abandoned Chuck E. Cheese-style restaurant. Your goal is trying to survive five-night shifts while the animatronic characters who used to entertain audiences at the restaurant try to find and kill you. 

The underlying lore tells the story of William Afton, the creator of Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzeria, who brutally murders children who come to the restaurant to cope with his own trauma. He stuffs their bodies into the animatronic suits, and the children haunt the pizzeria, explaining how the characters are able to move freely and attack the security guards.

The original franchise is made up of 10+ sequels to the original game and close to 30 books based on them. Almost a decade later, what started as the passion project of independent game developer Scott Cawthon has gained an unprecedented fanbase. YouTube personalities, kids and teenagers worldwide, and even actor Jack Black have become invested in everything about the game.

Going into the “FNAF” movie, I wasn’t sure what to expect. There’s so much source material to play with, and I didn’t know what the filmmakers would be able to accomplish. After watching the film on opening night and hyper-fixating on it for the past few days, it’s safe to say that, at least in my eyes, they succeeded.

Without spoiling anything, I have to mention the “easter eggs” and references to the games and books throughout the film. As someone who has been a fan of this franchise since the first game dropped when I was 12 years old, I wanted the movie to be a love letter to the original fans as much as possible, and it totally was.

The references were subtle and beautiful, like the opening credits being in a vintage eight-bit video game style to pay homage to hidden mini-games that Cawthon began hiding in glitches in the game starting with “Five Nights At Freddy’s 2.” 

There were a few cameos from YouTubers who have frequently covered the games, references to fan theories through background props and more tiny details that never failed to make me smile. While I can’t speak to the perspective of someone who went into the film without knowing anything about the source material, I don’t feel like the “inside jokes” between filmmaker and OG fan distracted too much from the movie’s plot.

Speaking of the plot, I thought that it was similar enough to the original plot of the games, down to the film lasting five nights and the final one being the most chaotic, but the story was still unique enough. The movie is centered around Mike Schmidt (Josh Hutcherson) who gets a job at the abandoned Freddy’s restaurant while trying to solve the mystery of who abducted his younger brother, Garrett, when they were children.

Mike has to start bringing his younger sister Abby to his night shifts after being ghosted by her babysitter. When she starts befriending the animatronics (or the souls of the dead children trapped inside them), the chaos begins. The animatronics, crafted by Jim Henson’s studio, looked amazing on screen and really made this film as immersive as it was.

While Hutcherson and Piper Rubio (Abby) had good performances, the film’s true star is Matthew Lillard. He first appears as Mike’s career counselor Steve Raglan, but is clearly not who he says he is by the end of the film. Lillard doesn’t get a ton of screen time, but he certainly makes that time count.

Some adult fans who played the games as kids were concerned about the PG-13 rating, but there were still a few fun scares despite the lack of gore. I personally prefer suspense to blood and guts in my horror movies, so I loved the filmmakers choosing to leave it to sound design and shadows to show the kills.

The PG-13 rating also gave the film time to explore its more humorous side, being aware of its own absurdity. Despite criticism, it’s important to remember that the main audience for these games, and therefore the main audience for this movie, is made up of children and teenagers. The souls trapped in the animatronics are also still the spirits of children, so it makes sense that they crave playing around and having fun.

“Five Nights At Freddy’s” didn’t have to be a three-hour-long R-rated gore fest to be a fun film that fans and young moviegoers can enjoy. If this gets some of those younger film buffs to check out other horror movies, or even just go see the inevitable “FNAF 2” film in a few years, I feel that its mission has been accomplished.

To me, “Five Nights At Freddy’s” was a surreal experience where I saw scenes from my favorite childhood video game play out on a larger-than-life screen. I hope that, to others, it’s the gateway horror film that introduces them to the world of even more creative, outlandish and bone-chilling thrillers.

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