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Monday, March 4, 2024

A newcomer’s review of ‘Five Nights at Freddy’s’

The fanbase brings the franchise to life through clever theorizing of its animatronics, pizzeria and characters

 

By ELIZABETH WOODHALL — arts@theaggie.org

 

The much-anticipated film “Five Nights At Freddy’s” (FNAF) was released on Oct. 27, 2023, almost nine years after the first video game in the series was released in 2014. Although the film seemed to underperform based on critics’s reviews, with one Rotten Tomatoes review describing it as “muddled and decidedly unscary,” this was not the case for fans who were introduced to new lore — and who finally got to see this adaptation come to life. 

The movie was initially going to be a Warner Bros. production but was ultimately moved to Blumhouse Productions, a company that is popular for delivering well-performing box-office thriller movies like “Get Out,” directed by Jordan Peele. Emma Tammi took on this project as a director and screenplay writer alongside Scott Cawthon, the video game creator. 

Although the first game, “Five Nights at Freddy’s,” was meant to be underground with a smaller fanbase, the game has now seeped into the mainstream culture that has been cultivated by fans who theorize what everything means in the game. For example, some people who grew up hearing about the games learned about the “Bite of ‘87” and then went down a rabbit hole of countless theories of what it all meant. 

The game holds a nostalgic element of horror, filled with seemingly nice but dangerous animatronics that haunt the once-popular Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza. The pizzeria was once known for its arcade-style, welcoming (but a little bit unnerving) ambiance. Children went there to have fun, play some games and most definitely not to get terrorized by the animatronics. The animatronics in the first game aren’t too hard to forget: Bonnie, a purple rabbit; Chica, a yellow chicken; Foxy, a pirate fox with an eyepatch and hook and Freddy, a brown bear. 

The protagonist in the game is Mike Schmidt, a new night guard who has to make sure that everything stays well-maintained at the pizzeria. During those five nights, Mike has to switch between watching the security cameras and making sure that no one — aka the animatronics — gets too close to his office. Once they get close enough, the player has a few seconds to close the door before Mike gets torn up by the animatronics. Can’t forget about the energy saving, though: the players can only use up so much energy — usually taken up from looking through the security cameras, keeping the lights on and keeping the door closed — until it runs out, ultimately leaving the player without electricity. When that happens, Mike is cornered in his office, left defenseless and gets eaten alive by any of the animatronics who are “free-roaming.” Not too scary, right? 

As the player navigates through the different nights, they learn more about the history behind the broken-down building that’s run by these animatronics who are hungry for human flesh. 

The movie starts with a night security guard being strapped to a torture device, one that seems to trap him in an animatronic. In a scene that introduced a gruesome and gory death, watchers — both new to the franchises and those who are familiar with the lore — are in for quite the treat. The protagonist Mike Schmidt is forced to take on a job as a night security guard after assaulting someone who he interpreted to be a kidnapper but was actually the child’s father. Steve Raglan, Mike’s career counselor, offers him the job, stressing that it’s not an easy one and most quit after a few weeks. He is desperate for a job after social services threaten to take his sister Abby away from his custody and place her in the hands of her money-seeking aunt Jane. He now has to depend on Abby’s babysitter, Max, to take care of her while he is away at night. This causes a greater strain on their relationship since Mike cannot seem to understand why Abby is so detached from the world, scribbling away with her crayons and imagining a different world. 

During Mike’s first night, he has a recurring nightmare of his little brother, Garrett, being kidnapped by a stranger while they’re on a camping trip. Unlike the past nightmares where it ends with him seeing the car drive away, this time, Mike encountered five kids who’ve witnessed it, too. They all run away before he can get his answers. On the second night, Mike falls asleep again with the help of his sleeping pills, but he is awoken by a strange gash. A police officer named Vanessa Shelly appears to aid him. Mike seems to be unaware of the place where he works, so Shelly briefly described that the place closed during the 1980s when five kids went missing, where the suspects nor the victims were ever found. 

The audience finally gets to see the animatronics come alive on the morning after the second night. Jane hires a group of people — one of whom is Abby’s babysitter and has been feeding information to Jane — to vandalize Mike’s workplace and hasten the custody. As they trash the place, the group is terrorized by the animatronics, especially with the help of Mr. Cupcake, an animatronic that is small and shaped like a cupcake, resulting in a blood bath. But since Max disappears, Mike is forced to bring Abby to the pizzeria. For someone who is overprotective of Abby, mostly because of the trauma he faced from the disappearance of his little brother, it’s odd that Mike decides to bring her to a place that is known for the disappearance of younger kids. 

Nonetheless, he brings her into the pizzeria, falls asleep and is awoken by Abby playing with the animatronics. She seems to connect with them and often communicates through drawings. It is then that the audience sees that they are possessed by the ghosts of the five missing children. As if that weren’t foreshadowing the lurking danger of having Abby there, Mike decides to bring her in again on his fourth night, especially because his brother’s disappearance seems to be linked to the animatronics. It is then that Abby is accidentally injured, and Mike gets Jane to babysit Abby. During that night, Mike finally confronts the little kids in his dreams, and they propose that he can stay with Garrett if he lets them have Abby, who seems to be content when they are around. He initially accepts, but after rationalizing it, he says that he takes it back — but it’s already too late because Foxy attacks him and then he is trapped in the torture device. He manages to get loose, and somehow Freddy, the bear animatronic, kills Jane and takes a cab back to the pizzeria with Abby but the driver doesn’t question it. 

Vanessa cares for Mike’s injuries and reveals that she is the daughter of William Afton, the owner of the former pizzeria and the person who kidnapped and murdered the five children, including Garrett. He hid the bodies in the animatronics and captured their souls, which allowed the animatronics to be as realistic as humanly possible — literally. Mike defeats the animatronics, but they are revived by Steve (the career counselor) — actually William Afton — who reappears in a yellow rabbit suit, his signature. Ultimately, he is defeated by the animatronics who are led by Abby’s drawing, showing the truth of what happened to them. Williams’s suit triggers the internal spinlocks and locks him in. As the animatronics drag him off to a room, Venessa, Mike and Abby all make it out alive. As if she wasn’t traumatized enough, Abby asks Mike if they can visit them sometime.  

Although many had expectations before going into the movie, beyond the very little knowledge of the original game franchise, the movie was surprisingly entertaining. Despite the many jumpscares and knuckle-cracking that may have distracted viewers, the movie offers a satisfying adaptation to all the passionate fanbase who bring these theories to life, making the franchise all that more enjoyable and terrifying. 

 

Written by: Elizabeth Woodhall — arts@theaggie.org

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