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The School News Site of Bonner Springs High School

The Pow Wow

Jaylon Thompson’s article on Yahoo Sports
Royals on an Impressive Start: Can they keep up?
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Mr. Mellick - Craftsman On and Off Campus
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(AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
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Five Nights at Freddy’s (2023)

The Biggest Child-Loved Horror Franchise Branches Into Film
(Emma Tammi, Five Nights at Freddy’s, 2023/rogerebert.com)
(Emma Tammi, Five Nights at Freddy’s, 2023/rogerebert.com)

(This review is not spoiler-free. Content warning for discussions of child abduction and murder.)

Five Nights at Freddy’s is no longer simply an indie game series that became an internet sensation. As it branches into film with its first installment of a planned trilogy on October 27, 2023, it has become a fully-fledged franchise in the horror genre. Directed by Emma Tammi and based on the video game series by Scott Cawthon (who also acted as a screenplay writer and producer), the first film is a strange- and flawed- but enjoyable watch.

The plot follows Mike Schmidt (Josh Hutcherson), the first game’s protagonist, who is now a volatile security guard struggling with employment and caring for his younger sister, Abby (Piper Rubio). His custody of her is in danger of being taken away by their estranged Aunt Jan (Mary Stuart Masterson), who wants the monthly paycheck from the state if she acquires it from him. He reluctantly accepts a job as a night guard at Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza, a family restaurant that closed down after several children went missing in the 1980s. The restaurant’s main attraction was the animatronic animal mascots that would play songs and interact with the children there, now locked away behind unused stage curtains.

As he works there, he begins to uncover the secrets contained within the building; when he sleeps, he dreams about his abducted brother. Determined to find his kidnapper, he finds that the animatronic mascots in the building are possessed by the ghosts of the children who went missing inside the restaurant. The children were murdered and their bodies were stuffed inside the mascots, and they come to life to attack anybody who disturbs them. As he continues going to the building, he finds that the case of the missing children at the restaurant and the abduction of his younger brother share a perpetrator.

To begin with a personal note- coming out of the movie, I thought to myself that the Five Nights at Freddy’s film was something I would’ve adored when I was a fan of the series at nine years old. Though the series may not have been originally created to appeal to children, it has always been a sensation among that demographic; its lack of heavy explicit gore or swearing combined with its children’s pizzeria setting has always given it a childlike aspect despite the macabre lore behind it. I remember excitedly talking with my friends about the latest game installment in fourth grade, anticipating each new release and popular fan theory.

The movie seems to be aware of and embrace this part of its demographic. It makes an effort to appeal to fans and remain faithful to the plot of the original games, and it doesn’t make itself hostile to children. The movie, rated PG-13, is written in a way that children can very easily grasp and connect to, with the story ending as the child killer- William Afton, remaining true to the games- gets his long-due karma delivered by the ghost children themselves. It is easily argued that the film is primarily aimed at younger audiences, and that may not be a bad thing.

This, however, does come at the cost of the film’s success as a horror. If you are not young or easily frightened, the Five Nights at Freddy’s film is likely not something you should worry about in terms of content. The video game’s scares largely come from the “uncanny valley” feeling of its mascots, heightened by its atmosphere and its iconic jumpscares, and aided by the interactive medium in which you play in first-person, bringing you directly inside the setting. The film largely lacks these elements, especially in regard to the animatronics themselves. In fact, their surprisingly expressive faces combined with the bright lighting more often than not just make them comical. (Personally, I laughed hysterically at the scene where the animatronic cupcake tore apart a vandal’s face and Chica, the chicken mascot, squinted and slowly side-eyed a witness.)

The story is also awkward at points. Some of the dialogue felt cheesy and stilted, especially combined with some weird acting (though much of that came from the child actors, who I don’t fault.) The ending climax felt sudden, and William Afton’s speech to the robots felt strange and overdramatic, especially since he only had a few minutes of actual screen time. Five Nights at Freddy’s as a franchise has never had a conventionally told story, instead being revealed in cryptic pieces inside secret minigames and dialogue throughout, so the film’s concrete plot was going to be difficult to implement. Despite this, it doesn’t feel forced or unfaithful, which is impressive on its own.

The first Five Nights at Freddy’s, while very imperfect, is a fun watch for old fans of the series and preteens wanting to ease their way into horror. Since sequels are virtually guaranteed to come, it will be greatly interesting to see what the film installments have to offer next. Currently available in theaters and on Peacock, anybody with nostalgia for the franchise or children who are fans of the series would find this worth a watch.

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About the Contributor
Charlotte Dykes
Charlotte Dykes, Writer
Charlotte Dykes is a 17-year-old senior at Bonner Springs High School. She is involved in the school's Scholars Bowl and is a member of the local orchestra. She enjoys analyzing media as well as writing her own stories. In her free time, other than writing, she enjoys playing video games, drawing, and hanging out with her friends.

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