By Jack McLaughlin
Arts & Features Editor
By By Owen Glancy
Asst. Arts & Features Editor
After nearly a decade of growing a massively dedicated fanbase, the wildly popular “Five Nights at Freddy’s” (FNAF) game series finally has a film adaptation.
The film has been in production since 2015, and after many swaps with writers, directors, and even studios, the Emma Tammi-directed project has been released.
Initially, FNAF’s plot is simple enough. Mike Schmidt (Josh Hutcherson) is given a new job doing night shift security at the abandoned Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza.
Mike quickly discovers the old animatronics in the restaurant - Freddy, Chica, Bonnie, and Foxy - get a bit quirky at night and haunted hijinks ensue.
Going deeper into the plot, the film is able to do something remarkable - make FNAF lore digestible for a casual moviegoer.
If you know anything below the surface about this game series, you know that the lore is complicated and if you aren’t watching a healthy dose of Game Theory videos online or reading the books, it’s easy to get lost.
They were able to simplify the plot enough to where there is a decent amount of intrigue, while also making it inviting to a newcomer of the series.
The film’s cast is mostly unremarkable, unfortunately - which brings the enjoyment of the story down quite a bit. Hutcherson does a fine job in the lead role, and portrays Mike’s relationships with his sister Abby (Piper Rubio) and police officer Vanessa (Elizabeth Lail) well.
For the most part, these are the three characters you are going to be sticking with for most of the story. They service the plot enough - but none of them have lasting power that makes them entirely memorable, unlike Matthew Lillard.
Lillard is the shining star of this film. Playing the villain, William Afton, he elevates every scene he’s in - which unfortunately are very few.
His ability to still play an incredibly entertaining and twisted villain has not worn off since “Scream,” and fans will certainly be pleased with his portrayal of Afton.
One of the highlights of the film is the special effects by the Jim Henson Company, famous for their work on “The Muppets” and “The Dark Crystal.” By making the animatronics not only real, but by giving that responsibility to such a trusted and experienced team, enhanced the film’s potential for scares tenfold.
Sadly, the film rarely capitalizes on these incredible effects. Instead of having more scenes where the animatronics go on killing sprees, they use them in more comedic or heartwarming ways.
This may sound strange to those who haven’t seen the film, and that’s because it is. Even if it is accurate to the lore of the games, it takes away from the potential suspense and horror of every scene, instead making it feel closer to a children’s film attempting to be a horror movie.
The rest of the film’s production falls a bit short of the impressive animatronics. The music, while occasionally brilliant, is mostly forgettable and never truly adds to the film.
Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza looks great, almost like it was a real abandoned restaurant that they filmed in. However, every other location in the film is very generic and the bland cinematography and score do nothing to help this.
The film’s greatest sin is that it is boring. Every plot twist and jumpscare was so predictable that it made not falling asleep in the theater a challenge.
We know virtually nothing about FNAF, so the fact that we were able to stay five steps ahead of every scene in the film is not a good sign, to the point where Owen would say that this film is more effective at putting him to sleep better than melatonin.
“Five Nights at Freddy’s” is a film of ups and downs. Matthew Lillard, the impressive special effects, and the surprisingly simple plot are all excellent, making the film worth watching.
But the mostly bad cast, the constant tonal whiplash, the underwhelming production design, and the bland writing make it a slog to get through.
For fans of the games, this is a miracle adaptation that somehow makes nearly a decade of carefully crafted lore digestible in just under two hours. However, for anyone else, it’s your average PG-13 horror flick that offers nothing new or original.
Five Forgettable Nights at Freddy’s.