This is quite the occasion here, let me tell you. I’ve been planning on this one since probably before I really decided to officially do this whole 31 days thing. Every other day has mostly been a crap shoot of what I’m going to watch. No real rhyme or reason to the planning of what I view on any particular day. Whatever strikes my fancy that evening is what makes it into the rotation. But this one, this movie had a release date and I knew I was going to watch it on Peacock the day of release. This is one of those holdover policies from the pandemic that doesn’t happen much anymore. It’s a very unique sort of practice. With the rise in streaming services over the last decade and everyone silo-ing out their content by who owns what, the exclusivity of certain intellectual properties becomes a hot commodity in certain instances. Everybody is churning out content in droves anymore so with a lot of stuff you have to sift through the silage to find out what is worth your time. Every now and then you can go off of recommendations from a trusted friend but we’ve moved away steadily from the old days of FOMO (Fear of missing out) because there’s just too much to watch. There’s not really any one network or property that everyone gathers around the water cooler to talk about anymore so you’re free to indulge in whatever strikes your fancy. Plus, unless you can convince a friend or coworker to watch the show you’re enjoying, no one will be there to talk about it with you. So you have to go to message boards on the internet where you befriend nameless avatars and post your opinions hoping to avoid trolls and spoilers. That’s how we sift through media anymore, mostly. Except in instances like these.
Five Nights at Freddy’s started out as a game. I won’t create some notion that I’m an authority on the subject because I’m far from it. I’m simply aware it began as a video game. Honestly I don’t even know how many iterations of the game there have been. I think it’s a PC only game but I don’t even know that. Nor am I going to expend the energy to look literally anything up about it. I’m comfortable with my current level of understanding about the world of FNAF, the affectionately acronymed placeholder for the series in most discussions anymore. If you cant recognize FNAF or sometimes FNaF if people want to get slightly more grammatically integrous, then you’re on the inside of the discussion of all things Freddy Fazbear’s. The franchise stems from an unhealthy fear people established in the wake of the 80’s and 90’s popularity of both Showbiz Pizza and Chuck E. Cheese’s. Animatronic characters meant to enhance your pizza eating and video game playing experience. That was the height of reverie in our youth. Birthday parties at a Chuck E. Cheese were legendary. Children running about wildly. Parents attempting to stake out space similar to the westward expansion of the United States in the 1800’s. Frantic huddling around mostly clean table strategically placing coats and purses so that packs of ravenous children could have somewhere to sit and ingest their sugar and carbohydrates in between video games and presents. It was the best. The BEST! There was never an experience for a child in the 80’s or 90’s when visiting a Chuck E. Cheese was a bad thing. The fact that they still exist today and I enjoy taking my children is a testament to their staying power in the zeitgeist. Charles Entertainment Cheese is a fixture in this life of ours and one that we should appreciate probably a little more than we readily do.
But with all things we once loved in our childhood, someone has to steal it and bastardize it to exploit our need for fear mongering as well. We can’t just have nice things. For every good and pure thing like Chuck Cheese, there is a counterbalance like Freddy Fazbear. Freddy is the evil animatronic that is bent on torturing security guards in a game. Why not. In the same way we took clowns and let Stephen King turn us against them by filling our collective minds with the evil that is Pennywise, we need to strip Chuck Cheese of his goodness by creating a villain of the same nature. I submit that we can continue to laud the efforts of Charles and his pizza and video game empire while finding a similar way to appreciate the frightful nature of Freddy and his violent ways. To appreciate the good things in life we must measure them against the evil. So the worst that Freddy is, the more glorious we can uphold a pizza purveying rat who plays the keyboard. I’m all for it personally. I don’t quite remember exactly when Five Nights at Freddy’s came on the scene but it was at a time when I had no interest in picking up the video game of it. It was geared towards more of a high school crowd from the onset, I believe. There are horror video games that cater to all manner of audiences but as far as I could tell, FNAF had sort of that Fortnite quality where CoD was the grown up version. I think there was a sort of limitation to how far the game would really go and I don’t think it ever really pushed boundaries in violence or any other significant capacity. It had a reputation for being scary and there were plenty of jump scares to keep it interesting enough, I believe. But again, I can’t speak overtly intelligently on the game aspect of it because I simply never played. But over the years, it did create quite a following and fanbase. Merchandising propped up Hot Topic’s economic viability considerably. Freddy seemed to unite all sorts of groups as it didn’t really cater to just one. Kids of all sorts seemed to enjoy the game. Which I will say is a credit to it’s own staying power as well. Up until recent years the idea of a video game being able to successfully crossover into the world of movies was not a task often undertaken successfully. So for FNAF to have stayed relevant long enough to create enough interest in a movie adaptation is commendable.
This brings us to the actual movie. Being that it just came out today, I’m not going to break all of it down. I’ll try and limit my thoughts on the movie to high level so as to not spoil anything, though in my estimation if you’ve seen the trailer then you probably know 80% or more of the movie anyways. And I’m assuming if you’ve played the games then you’re even more in then known than I am. I will say that’s one of my laments about this movie. Having no context for it based on the source material other than a general understanding means there’s probably a number of references and easter eggs that I won’t be privy to which is unfortunate. That being said, I do feel like at the end of the movie I was fulfilled on what was presented. As I talked in the initial hours after viewing with Ron about the film, there’s a number of different directions I’d probably take the plot to make the story a good bit more cohesive. I’d edit out some subplot lines to shore up continuity and make things make far more sense than I feel like they do. Honestly I feel like I even have viable means for concluding this film that would lead towards both a second and third installment in a trilogy. I don’t want to be a universe guy. I hated back in the late 2000’s when we had to automatically think of everything in terms of trilogies. No movie could stand on it’s own. And we weren’t even satisfied with the idea that a sequel could potentially be made. If any film exhibited any degree of success, it automatically became a candidate for a trilogy and we were going to try and film a second and third installment simultaneously for budgetary reasons. That being said, I do feel like I could write a second and third installment in this trilogy this weekend. They would be pretty much what you’d expect. Maybe a few unique twists and turns. But this is a franchise where most of what you expect plays out exactly like you think it should. Predictability isn’t bad in these movies because the tension isn’t built through story telling. It comes in bursts from jump scares. Because the primary audience for this film is middle school and high school kids. And that’s fine. That’s why I’m not just going to rag on this movie. Because I’m not the demographic for this movie.
I’ve become a big fan of the more sophisticated horror movie that entertains on levels. I like a well developed story and at least one to two subplots that intertwine to keep things moving but also interesting. The more unexpectedly cohesive these storylines overlap and eventually come together at the end, the better. This is going to primarily be achieved by subverting expectations through good storytelling and strong character exposition and growth. None of that happens in this movie. But again, that doesn’t matter. It’s a movie for teenagers. Not that it’s assembled poorly and you don’t get ANY of these features. But where I thrive on the intricate storytelling in levels that David Fincher gives me in Zodiac that builds tremendous tension on a number of fronts through various complicated metrics, Freddy’s also does it’s own world building, just maybe a little more heavily handed. FNAF does a decent job of constructing this world and the key players are all relatively capable actors. I do still feel like Josh Hutcherson is underutilized to the fullness of his capability but he does a fantastic job with what he’s got. I also believe that Matthew Lillard is woefully underused but the story doesn’t call for an excessive presence on screen unfortunately. There are other aspects of the plot that leave me a bit dissatisfied but that’s my own personal issues with the film. Overall I don’t feel like they significantly detract from the primary audience focus.
One thing you can’t do with this movie is spend any significant time focused on a specific element here or there because if you do, you will begin to unravel the fabric of how this film establishes itself. You’re meant to accept things as they come and simply allow the world to build on itself. Ingest the world visually. Don’t meander too much in the elements of the plot that seem to not add up. Just mostly be present. If you are present in the moment all throughout the film and don’t linger outside of that, I think you will have fun with this movie the entire time. I think it’s like going on a waterslide that has a few cracks in it. The cracks ultimately are not dangerous. They don’t pose a significant threat to the waterslide so you’re still very much safe by riding on it. But if you look too closely and see any of the cracks, they will distract you from the fun you can have simply riding the waterslide and then you can ruin the experience. So just get on the waterslide and ride it. You’re safe and when you get to the bottom you’ll be smiling from all the fun you had and you’ll want to ride again. That’s the best part. For a guy like me that sees the cracks I can tell you what I’d do to fix them and make the slide a little better. But if I need to go down the slide I can also appreciate that I’m still safe while not worrying about things. I won’t have as much fun as I could because I see the cracks. But with that age comes the wisdom. Seeing the cracks without that knowledge only makes things less fun. And I don’t want to ruin this waterslide for anyone it’s intended to entertain, ultimately.
As it stands I think this movie will do well. It’s been advertised heavily. It’s coming out right before Halloween to it’s going to have a great weekend where it maxes out it’s financial potential I believe. With it being available on streaming as well simultaneously I’m sure they have a metric they can measure that success as well so in the end they’ll be able to determine how quickly to move on a sequel. I have to imagine there will be at least one. Especially if they can keep costs in line. Whatever that sweet spot is where they spend enough to make it look good but not too much to cut into their own pockets, they will draw that line. I’ll be somebody is already firing up a word processor right now for the FNAF2 script to be written. And it will be the same kind of fun that this one was. Probably a little less. It’s the law of diminishing returns. The sequel will not be as good as the original so from the onset they will not put as much effort into it. We’ll get to the point where we have enough sequels and the franchise will go away until it become nostalgic and we try and reboot or it dies in oblivion somewhere and 30 years from now FNAF is a modern day Killer Klowns for a whole new generation. I won’t pretend I’m so pretentious that I didn’t enjoy myself. Like I said, there’s a REAL skeleton here that a better movie could have truly been built off of so I was a little disappointed that I had to settle for something I know could have tasted better. But it was still good enough. It’s fun, there’s decent scares and it moves along well. To me, this movie feels like a 5/10 just because it’s pretty middle of the road. If you’ve got a kid who has any emotional investment in the intellectual property and they are of age to watch this movie, I’m sure the enjoyment goes up significantly to a point. There’s definitely a sweet spot here. I think some kids that were the perfect Freddy’s age when the game first came out may have grown up just enough that the PG-13 nature of this film leaves them a little wanting but if your kiddo was late to the party or is in the age range that a PG-13 main stream horror movie is perfect for them then this is probably their cup of tea. I feel like when I was a kid there wasn’t as much middle ground which I do appreciate anymore. There were kids scary movies which were of the Goosebumps and Are You Afraid of the Dark variety, which was still good but just not truly scary but then there was the R rated scary stuff that was out of reach. There was nothing in between that was really scary just without that content that pushed it into the adults only rating. So I will applaud Freddy’s for really appreciating their fan base and keeping the movie well in bounds for a younger horror audience. Since I’m keeping conversation light on spoilers, I think that’s as good a place as any to cut this off now. So until the next time kids, I’ll catch you on the flip side.