Cinema Corner: “Five Nights at Freddy’s”/”Cat Person”

Five Nights at Freddy’s

If you’re under the age of 25, there’s a huge chance that you’ve heard of the video game Five Nights at Freddy’s – either through playing the game yourself, watching another YouTuber do a playthrough, MatPat’s Game Theory videos, or a recent TikTok trend. The brand is hugely recognisable with Gen Z, so the fact that the movie has rocked the box office comes as no surprise. But is it worth a trip to Freddy Fazbear’s pizzeria? 

Josh Hutcherson plays Mike, a caretaker to his younger sister. After recently getting fired from a mall security gig, his auntie wishes to take custody of her niece from him, claiming he is unfit to take care of her. In order to make his case look better, he’s willing to take any job he can get, including a job at an abandoned pizzeria as a night shift security guard. But that’s not all. Whenever he sleeps, he dreams about when he was younger, back to when he watched his brother get kidnapped, reliving the same dream every night to try and get more details about the culprits. While drifting off during his shift to get more information from his past, there are some other implications in the form of lively anthropomorphic animal animatronics wandering about during the night.

Blumhouse Productions’ main goal as a company is to make horror films on a low budget and turn it around to make a huge profit. With Five Nights at Freddy’s, they’ve smashed this motive. What they haven’t smashed is a decent level of quality. It’s tough to make a 15A “horror” film actually be scary, cursed by the limitations of allowing children to view it with their parents. So, it quickly resorts to loud noises followed by something appearing very large on the screen suddenly.

I’m sure people who are familiar with the lore can tell you every character. who they are, and what their backstory is; akin to the same type of people who know every Marvel character is in a post-credit scene. Those types of FNAF fans possibly love that their video game has finally gotten a big-screen adaptation. But for others, there’s not a whole lot to write home about. The greatest honour I could give it is that the production design is great. The pizzeria and animatronics feel authentic and real. In fact, the animatronics in particular look like they were stripped directly from the video game.

The film wants to be a campy horror flick, but there are a couple of issues. For one, no one in my screening of the film jumped in their seat, and, two, it’s not silly enough to be funny at any point. We need only look back towards earlier this year when M3GAN was released. That nailed the campy horror feel through the unique use of an AI doll that gains sentience and comes to life… seems like I’m getting a little déjá vu here. Well, at least this film isn’t about an adult trying to look after a child that isn’t theirs… Oh well, the similarities to M3GAN were inevitable. But I’m sure Blumhouse couldn’t have known that both their films were quite similar! Sadly, in nearly every aspect, this film is a lesser version of M3GAN.

With its story, FNAF doesn’t have anything meaningful to say. I’m totally not qualified enough to say this as I’m not well versed in the FNAF lore, but from my small knowledge of the franchise, it just seems like one big ghost story. Kids go missing and murders take place. There’s not much ground for a moral theme or message in it. There could be, but they don’t try. Instead, it’s just something to creep out the kids, which is what this franchise does well. I need only point towards the fact that 81% of the audience from the opening weekend were under 25, with 43% being between the ages of 13 and 17. You can see why they really wanted to keep it accessible to youth. 

The movie doesn’t capture the claustrophobic feel of the game. Being trapped in a room while trying to defend yourself from the killer robots trying to get to you. It has none of that same zeitgeist that grabbed the attention of teens in the mid-2010s. The scariest thing about it is that we’re going to be spending a lot more time than just five nights at Freddy’s from now on, due to the box office.

Cat Person

Cat Person is based on The New Yorker short story of the same name by Kristen Roupenian. Straight away, the biggest challenge for the filmmakers is how are they going to adapt something that is in the range of a 40-page long book. With not much in terms of material, can they justify a two-hour-long feature film?

Emilia Jones plays Margot, a retail assistant at a cinema. One night, a tall, mysterious man called Robert (Nicholas Braun) buys some snacks from her while she attempts to make some awkward small talk. He then comes back another night and asks for her number. The two begin texting, hitting it off over the phone but never in person, all the while, her feminist best friend tells her to be wary of this new man, critiquing her every move with him. For the remainder of the film, we follow them through their fresh relationship.

First off, I want to compliment the film. The way it attempts to build tension in its scenes by giving us an inside look at Margot’s thoughts is super fascinating. The director utilises fantasy-like scenes where Margot imagines what has happened in her mind; going from imagining what type of job Robert has, to what would happen if she’s locked in a room with him and no one around to help get her out. From comedy to horror, this is where a major flaw in the film comes from. Tonally, it’s all over the place, never knowing whether to be a sweet romantic comedy or a stalker thriller. The dream-like sequences work well for the comedy aspect, but not so much for the anxiety-inducing moments.

If there was a threat that Margot could be in danger, you need only take one look towards Nicholas Braun. He breaks away from the role of Greg from Succession, however he doesn’t emit any sense of danger. Not threatening, only weird and strange. Let’s go back to Margot for a moment. Emilia Jones portrays a college girl who is in her sophomore year, studying something that is akin to archaeology. Either way, she seems like an astute, intelligent woman. The fact that a smart girl like her would even keep talking to this peculiar man is baffling after he jokes about murdering her in a car ride. There are so many red flags. So many in fact, that they are literally trapped in a red room together at one point. Can’t get any redder. The connection between them is nowhere near as strong as the film wants to believe. No one in their right mind would continue to pursue this man if they have this little chemistry with them in person. The dynamic is just frustrating with how she justifies him. There’s suspension of disbelief, then there’s creating a scenario that holds that suspension of disbelief over a canyon and hoping you don’t let go of it. Once you realise the absurdity of it, it falls and there’s no going back.

From a technical aspect, the film is shot quite well. Manuel Billeter frames certain shots halfway, making it seem like we’re only getting one side of the story. Put on top of that, some fairly moody lighting which adds beauty to the film. Even if the interior of the film is ugly, at least the exterior isn’t. The thing is, there are good ideas at the heart of it. When she locks up the cinema and begins to walk home, a great needle drop happens, and you have hope that something great is going to happen. But nothing happens. The film doesn’t play into the tension it’s trying to create, instead playing it simple and safe rather than creating more atmosphere. And when the shocking moment happens where she receives a text from Robert calling her a whore, it’s more laughable rather than disgusting. At that point, the short story ends, yet the film goes on, leading to a baffling third act. The reveal of what is really going on is shocking. Shocking in the way of what the filmmakers are saying. I was quite stunned by what was actually happening.

At one point in the film, there’s a long and purposefully uncomfortable sex scene. In which case, I can’t tell if it was played for laughs or to make us feel sorry for the character. And that sums up the film, a tonally confused movie in which it doesn’t know whether it wants the audience to laugh or wince. Instead, it just leaves me grossed out with whatever unbelievable moment is being shared between a 20-year-old woman and a 34-year-old man.

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