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Comedy or horror? ‘Five Nights at Freddy’s’ film adaptation can’t pick a genre

Graphic by Ethan Nelson

The next video game in line for a movie adaptation was the beloved “Five Nights at Freddy’s,” which hit theaters on Oct. 27.

“Five Nights at Freddy’s” is a popular horror game series released in 2014 and primarily revolves around surviving roaming animatronics. There are nine popular main-series games and now a so-so movie.

The film’s slow exposition takes it to almost 25 minutes before revealing this is an entry into the “Five Nights at Freddy’s” universe. Even then, it only narrowly connects with the stories’ main character. Mike, the newest Fazbear Pizzeria security guard, takes the job as a last resort to provide for his little sister Abby so their aunt doesn’t gain custody of her.

Due to a traumatic childhood, Mike has nightmares of the day his little brother was kidnapped, and tries every night to identify the kidnapper’s face. After falling asleep at the pizzeria the first night, he sees five additional children who have never appeared in his dream.

The children seem meaningless at first, except to fans of the series. Critics feel the movie obscured the kids’ relevance in the lore. In contrast, every aspect of the film that relates to the game is later explained, making viewers’ prior lore knowledge inconsequential.

The script makes the references clear through numerous irrelevant visuals and comments between characters. If you were remotely familiar with the game and its lore, you’d probably have the plot figured out based on the visuals in the opening credits.

The aunt later hired a group of goons, including Abby’s overnight babysitter, to break into the pizzeria and destroy it to get Mike fired. This is where the uninformed see the animatronics in a new light: ruthless killers.

With no one to watch her, Abby has to come with Mike. He once again falls asleep on the job and awakes to find his sister playing with the robots. The real importance of Abby’s encounter is Mike finding out the animatronics have information regarding his brother’s disappearance. 

The goodtime fluff between Mike, Abby, Vanessa and the gang is not only complete filler, but also drastically distracts from the movie’s tone. Twenty minutes prior, Freddy and friends commit murder, and it’s followed by an ill-fitting tickle fight and fort-building.

This is the film’s most glaring issue. The animatronic suits look good, the film is consistent with its original source material and the sound design is loyal to that of the games, but the changing tone throughout fails to embody the games’ unique qualities. There is no tension and the best jumpscares were appearances of Balloon Boy, an antagonist animatronic.

It feels as if writers couldn’t decide if this was going to be a scary movie or PG-13. There are sinister, psychological scares, but also hints at the makings of a thriller.

“Five Nights at Freddy’s” is a good watch, especially if you enjoy, or are familiar with, the video game series. For all intents and purposes, though, you wouldn’t miss much by skipping this adaptation.

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