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Five Nights at Freddy’s: Breaking the Video Game Movie Curse


This article contains mild spoilers for the movie Five Nights at Freddy’s. Read at your own risk.


Video game movies tend to get a bad rap: it’s hard to translate a player’s interactive experience into a compelling cinematic masterpiece. Creative liberties are taken, and dutiful fans of the franchise are left dissatisfied. 

That being said, I really can’t say the same for Five Nights at Freddy’s, which was released on October 27. Scott Cawthon, the game’s creator, co-wrote the script, which, as you might expect, helps cater the film to its fans. And cater to the fans it did, with cameos by game theorist MatPat and YouTuber CoryxKenshin, and the end credits’ musical accompaniment spearheaded by The Living Tombstone. 

The bulk of complaints I’ve seen regarding the movie concerns the lack of animatronic jumpscares, considering the game itself is renowned for its copious use of them. But, to be fair, the movie’s rated PG-13, and primarily focuses on the lore behind Michael Schmidt (portrayed by Josh Hutcherson), his missing brother Garrett, the elusive William Afton, and the “ghost children” haunting the animatronics at the dilapidated family-friendly (?) Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza. Other than the surprising abundance of bloodstains on old linoleum floors, bone-crushing springlock failures, and one shockingly gruesome death for a PG-13 movie, Five Nights at Freddy strives to be more than a trite slasher flick, inviting speculation on how the film fits into the existing canon of the franchise.

As for the content of the movie itself, Mike’s aloof, brooding personality in tandem with his unwavering protectiveness over his younger sister Abby made him an unexpectedly likable protagonist. 

In addition, sharing a name, hobby, and childhood nickname with a titular character amplified the unsettling nature of certain scenes — I’m all for horror movies until the creepy ghost child whispers your name in fleeting echoes and attempts to coerce you into becoming an animatronic like him. 

I’m impressed by the animatronics the most. They are not the work of CGI, but rather of practical puppeteering and detail-oriented set design. (Real people are manning those things!) The interior of the pizzeria itself was also equally impressive, sporting neon lights, classic checkerboard floors, and a flashy arcade, indicating the establishment’s prime during the late 80s and early 90s. 

Five Nights at Freddy’s is a rare example of a successful video game movie that understands its fans and target audience. While to some, the horror elements were deeply underwhelming, the movie’s overall atmosphere and narrative truly brought many of the game’s core mechanics to life.

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