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South Dakota State University's Independent Student-Run Newspaper Since 1885

The Collegian

South Dakota State University's Independent Student-Run Newspaper Since 1885

The Collegian

MOVIE REVIEW: “Five Nights at Freddy’s” is a confused mess and I love it


After nearly a decade of troubled production and a revolving door of directors, the “Five Nights at Freddy’s” movie is finally here.

Going into this film, I really had no idea what to expect. Movies based on videogames have had a reputation for being terrible, so I guess I wasn’t really expecting much. Then again “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” came out earlier this year, and that made over billions of dollars and people really seemed to enjoy it, so who’s to say this movie didn’t have potential? And after watching it myself, I found it to be a fun yet an incredibly flawed experience.

One aspect of this movie that I can’t give enough credit for is how it looks. Everything from its lighting, use of color, and practical effects really help capture the atmosphere that the games set out to create. Even without comparing it to the games, the movie still looks phenomenal. It honestly might be the best-looking movie I’ve seen this year, and I saw “Oppenheimer” in IMAX.

The choice to use real suits for the animatronics was an amazing decision. The production team partnered with The Jim Henson Company to make the costumes for the movie and had real life puppeteers inside them which really helped bring this movie to life.

I was also impressed with its attempts at horror. To my surprise the movie really doesn’t rely on cheap jump scares even though this would have probably been the one movie where this would have made sense to do that. This is because the primary way the games scare the player is through violent jump scares. If you let Freddy into the room or the power goes out you lose, and he screams in your face. Nothing like that happens in the movie.

Instead, the movie goes for scares the old-fashioned way through suspenseful build ups and maintaining a creepy environment. That’s not to say that these attempts necessarily pay off, but I at least appreciate the effort.

I also understand that despite the movie’s PG-13 rating, the movie is made with younger audiences in mind, so I think it’s important to take that into consideration. When making horror media designed for kids, you have to make some compromises on what’s scary for kids and what’s just straight up inappropriate. Despite the fact this movie’s main theme is child murder, I think it does an alright job at maintaining that balance.

I thought the actors’ performances were great. Matthew Lillard absolutely sells his role as an awkward yet creepy job recruiter, and Elizabeth Lail delivers an extremely powerful performance. Even the child actors are pretty good.

The one exception to this is the movie’s lead, Josh Hutcherson. I don’t know the last time I’ve seen an actor with a back catalogue of such classic and widely popular films look so disinterested in his own career. Even looking back to his other movies like “The Hunger Games” his performance just feels so wooden. It seems like he just gives the same performance in every movie he’s been in for the past decade and a half.

My hypothesis is that when he was a child star growing up, he got a lot of praise for being good for a child star, and that kind of went to his head, and that kind of stunted his growth as an actor. The reason I think this is because his performance just feels shallow and borderline armature. It doesn’t feel like I’m watching an adult in his late 20s to early 30s trying to be an effective father figure to his younger sister, it feels like I’m watching the kid from “Bridge to Terabithia” pretend to be an adult.

With all that being said, this movie is absolutely killed by its writing. Where the movie’s set design and lighting are an A+, the writing is a D-. It is barley functional.

The worst thing about its bad writing is that its problems bleed into other aspects of the movie that are otherwise well done.

While the actors give it their all and try to work with what they are given, their performances still come off as painfully stilted and awkward at times.

The tone of the movie is also impacted. At times the movie goes from a standard horror film to a dark comedy, to a half-baked “Home Alone” knockoff, all the way to a psychological thriller. It’s just all over the place. I wasn’t sure whether the movie was trying to make me laugh or scare me, so most of the time I did neither.

Even the pacing is affected by the poor writing. Scenes either drag on for too long or go so fast you don’t even realize what happened. There is a child custody plotline that’s introduced at the beginning of the film, and they focus on it for the first two acts, but it spontaneously ends out of nowhere and doesn’t get brought up again.

There are also a couple of times where the film feels the need to dump exposition on the audience for way too long. The plot becomes so convoluted that it feels like they need to look the audience in the eye and explain to them what they just saw. This is disappointing because I think that, at its best, this movie has some excellent instances of visual storytelling, but there are just so many minor details that the movie wants to include that it makes the rest of the film seem shallow by comparison.

Despite all its flaws, I can’t bring myself to hate it, and would still recommend giving it a watch. Maybe it’s just nostalgia speaking, but I’m glad this movie finally came out. Even though it misses the mark in a lot of ways, you can tell that the people behind this project made an earnest attempt to make this movie something special. The scares don’t land, and the dialog doesn’t work, but in the context of the film they feel like goofy quirks more than anything. The movie is fun, visually appealing, and doesn’t take itself too seriously, but it is brought down by its confused and shallow writing. A younger version of myself would have ripped this movie to shreds, but I just can’t bring myself to do that now. Because of that I give it a 6/10.

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Jack McCarty, Entertainment Editor

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    Purple GuyNov 2, 2023 at 4:43 pm

    With all my love to the Collegian and its growing opinion and entertainment sections,

    Your review is extremely unfair to Josh Hutcherson’s performance considering the context of his role. His character, Mike, is meant to be someone digestible at face-value, so watchers, fans of FNAF or not, are left to piece together who he is. Is he Michael Afton? Is he Mike Schmidt? Is he Henry’s son? Is he just some guy?
    Josh Hutcherson has been featured in four movies in the past decade, two of which being part of the Hunger Games franchise, and one being FNAF. Future Man, one of the few television projects he has worked on in his career, is so drastically different from THG and FNAF, that it’s inappropriate to talk about the physical comedy that goes into his role as Josh Futturman.
    To say that his roles have been hackneyed and monotone is underselling his dedication and talent for taking beloved characters from multimedia franchises to the big screen, in ways that have been unmatched by other actors.
    Five Nights at Freddy’s is the first installation in a confirmed franchise of future films. The storyline will be blurred, writing seemingly unintentional, and tone underdeveloped. This is Scott Cawthon’s image, and exactly what made FNAF so notorious.