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The Pony Express

The student news site of Center Hill High School.

The Pony Express

Review: “Five Nights at Freddy’s” movie disappoints fans of its influential indie game namesake.

Arturo Guerrero II
“A Stalker Lurks.” Clip Studio, Digital Art, 01 Nov. 2023.

Five Nights at Freddy’s is an indie horror game created by Scott Cawthon, where the point and click gameplay style revolves around surviving killer animatronics as a nighttime security guard for five nights in a family party pizzeria. With its enticing but simplistic game play and intriguing story, the games rapidly rose in popularity upon the gaming community. Upon each new release in the franchise, fans would piece together the lore of the complicated underlying story, analyzing the games to discover as much of the mystery as possible.

In April 2015, it was announced that Warner Bros acquired series film rights to adapt the beloved franchise into a film that would be based off the first game. As a longtime fan, I was so excited to see the game story being shown on the big screen. After eight years of production, the movie was finally released October 27th, 2023, in theaters and on Peacock streaming service. As someone who grew up with the franchise, it pains me to say that the movie did not meet my expectations.

Not everything in the movie was a letdown, however. 

Firstly, the Jim Henson Company did an incredible job with adapting the animatronics to the big screen. To have them function as actual animatronics and not just actors in suits brought life to this fictional story we were introduced to in the games. I really liked Josh Hutcherson’s performance as Mike Schmidt. He gave it his all and tried to bring this character justice. It was clear he was a tired, traumatized soul who just wanted closure from past events in his life. The first half of the movie was done well, even though it didn’t follow the game lore it set up interesting plot points, like Mike’s little brother’s kidnapping, Vanessa’s investment in the restaurant, and Mike’s aunt, Jane wanting to have custody of Abby.

A main issue I have is the characterization of the animatronics. In the games, the animatronics are haunted by the souls of the children who occupy their bodies. They spot a more vengeful benevolent presence around them, which is drastically different from the personalities of the animatronics we see in night three of the film. When Abby and the animatronics build a fort in the pizzeria their childlike behavior, and it’s almost exaggerated too much to the point where I was sort of taken out of the movie experience.

The film’s promotion of “Survive the Night” was also a bit overdone considering Mike didn’t attempt to survive any nights until the very last one. 

My worst gripe with the movie is how they handle William Afton. He appears one time in the beginning of the film then shows up at the final act a little randomly. During his death due to the springlock failure, he forces the line “I always come back.” This character has zero set up for him as the “big villain reveal.” 

Characters besides Mike are one dimensional and just lack the depth that’s crucial for the story to make sense. F.N.A.F. is infamous for its numerous jump scares throughout the gameplay. The utter absence of jump scares in a movie based on a game that has so many of them is just beyond disappointing.

The pacing was completely dragged out until night four and set up a villain in Mike’s aunt who is just killed off, ending the plot point without a real conclusion. It had so much potential, but it hurts to see it wasn’t brought out fully.

Now, I do understand there are limits when it comes to a theatrical cut of a video game. Some things will need to be changed to fit a narrative, and others need to be done in certain ways to give better delivery. But with a film going through eight years of productions I’d expect them to follow the lore, and still deliver a great movie. It hurts to see a franchise I love, and respect given not so good treatment writing wise on the big screen.

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About the Contributor
Arturo Guerrero II
Arturo Guerrero II, Multimedia Director
Arturo Guerrero II is the Multimedia Director for The Pony Express and The Mustang.

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