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The Knox Student

Student Read, Student Written, Student Led Since 1878

The Knox Student

Student Read, Student Written, Student Led Since 1878

The Knox Student

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Five Nights at Freddy’s (2023): An Experience of All Time

Five Nights at Freddy’s (2023): An Experience of All Time

This contains light spoilers for the Five Nights at Freddy’s film, video game series, and franchise. 

This Sunday, at 4 p.m. I settled in at Galesburg’s AMC Classic theater to watch Five Nights at Freddy’s (2023). I had my popcorn, smuggled in raisinettes, and was squished between my best friend and his girlfriend. I had high hopes for a truly garbage movie, since I was there to review it for my radio show on bad movies, Bargain Bin Rejects.

Five Nights at Freddy’s (2023) is a movie based on the video game series & franchise Five Nights at Freddy’s (FNaF), by Scott Cawthorn and later other developers. The first game was created in 2014 and soon followed by an additional 18 games over the following years up to today.

Anyone who remembers being on the internet in 2014 knows just how prevalent the FNaF games were, with big name youtubers like Markiplier playing it constantly. Being a teenager in this era meant you could not go more than an hour without hearing about it. With scary animatronics haunted by the spirits of murdered children attempting to kill you constantly plus a complex and ever changing lore, even today it has stayed relevant, ever present in online culture.

The movie was certainly an experience.

Its plot was winding, confusing and generally panned out quite poorly. We got both far too much information on small things and not enough on big things. There was little follow through on things like the custody hearing, or Vanessa’s multiple, very real legal problems. It flip-flopped on tone between silly hijinks and genuine horror (albeit only horror that could be achieved with a PG-13 rating). It is, for all intents and purposes, by a standard definition – a “bad” movie.

Yet, it alighted in me a child-like glee. With silly horror and stupid plotlines that, if I was eleven again, I would have screamed and threw popcorn at the screen. Several instances while watching I shared looks with my friend of muffled laughter and excitement. I left that theater and all I could think about for hours, and days, was how much fun I had sitting there for a Sunday matinee watching this movie. I’ve been raving about it ever since to the people around me, saying again and again, “You must go see it!”

I can’t even blame most of this on nostalgia, since the franchise is still actively releasing new content, with the most current game being Security Breach (2021) by Steel Wool, and another game from the same company planned to release this December.

No, I believe that this movie managed to recreate that same enjoyment of “spooky” animatronics at an abandoned children’s playhouse. In part I think it is because the movie is not serious that it worked so well. Its plotline was contrived and stupid, with many odd twists and turns to it. Yet it was still enjoyable regardless.

It also helped that most of the movie was practical effects. They built both real robots, and had wearable suits. The animatronics Freddy (Kevin Foster), Chica (Amanda Maddock), Foxy (Russ Walko), Bonnie (Sarah Sarang Oh) were puppets, with live actors inside. The set was built custom for the movie including the famous Freddy’s light-up sign that hangs in front of the building.

With today’s current trend of trading out every imaginable use of practical effects for CGI and animation, this movie in my opinion was a long overdue return of some serious big scale practical work. Seeing the animatronics in all their real-life glory was a childhood dream come true. Having so many behind the scenes clips be released of the many things that went into the production of this movie was a delight. I was well sold, legitimately excited about the movie.

As a graphic designer, I think a lot about visuals and how well something sells. I can’t turn it off when I’m watching anything. It’s a constant running critique I have of everything I see in my day to day life. And so when I settle in for another heavily CGI-based movie, I’m typically unsurprised when they’re a blur of grays and awkward lighting that breaks the immersion.

The practical effects in FNaF made it for me. The few times I wasn’t having fun were scenes that used CGI for Foxy, and I don’t believe those things are unrelated. Going to something like a Marvel movie today, where you know almost nothing is real except for the face of an actor anymore, makes it feel all the less glamorous. You feel cheap. It’s a pretty lightshow, but it doesn’t make you feel a thrum of glee when you remember that at the end of it all, almost none of it is real.

It made me think a lot about the current state of the movie industry. With the WGA & SWGA new contracts tentatively discussed, and the expected release of yet another lackluster Marvel movie on its way, FNaF stands out in my opinion. Seeing a premiere for The Marvels before FNaF just made it all the more prevalent how much CGI removes a lot of the inherent fun of a movie’s special effects.

My hope is that despite the movie’s poor reception and admittedly messy writing, that the truly impressive amount and level of practical effects work being used in Five Nights at Freddy’s helps bring back the same level of passion and appreciation I think everyone should have for the medium.

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About the Contributor
Red Engel
Red Engel, Graphics Editor
Sasse/Red Engel '25, (he/they) is an Art History major with a Chemistry minor. They joined TKS in 2021 as the graphics editor and have continued in that position since. He is in charge of social media and the creation of the magazines. He is from Chicago, Illinois, and their current goal in life is to work one day at DC Comics, as a comic book artist.

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