I’m unsure what Five Nights At Freddy’s was going for. It’s a PG-13-rated horror flick based on a massively popular video game series, but not one that’s at the Fortnite or other modern games level. It’s presented as a fairly frightening game series and the movie follows that similar path. However, the actual movie isn’t all that scary. This isn’t some situation where a moron watches The Exorcist and laughs at the effects online, though. The movie just lacks scares in general and the ones that are there, feel cheap. You’d think a movie based on a game that is all about demonic animatronics chasing you around an abandoned children’s pizzeria would have more jump scares.
I am no master of Five Nights At Freddy’s. I’ve played a bit of the first game, and that’s it. Judging from the story of this film, it’s simple enough. You have Mike, played by Josh Hutcherson, who takes care of his sister Abby, played by Piper Rubio. After a horrific event during his childhood involving his younger brother being kidnapped, Mike’s life has spiraled out of control. He goes from job to job until he finds one working security from a man named Steve Raglan (Matthew Lillard). Turns out, it’s working nights making sure no one gets into Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzeria. Along the way, there’s a subplot of Mike’s aunt trying to get custody of Abby from him, and a police officer named Vanessa (Elizabeth Lail) helping Mike along the way.
It’s basic enough. The story keeps the movie moving along so that you can see the evil robots. That just so happens to be the highlight of the film. The Henson Creature Shop did a magnificent job with all the animatronics in the film. They look almost too real at points and are the main event. They show tremendous amounts of expression; they’re terrifying at points, but you don’t get enough with them in the film. Usually, I’m all about not showing the monsters too much. But here, they’re shown a lot, but they don’t do a lot.
So the best feature of the film isn’t really shown doing much of anything besides a couple of moments where the robots rampage against people breaking into Freddy’s. You’re left wanting more from the film when it comes to scares.
Josh Hutcherson and Matthew Lillard are fantastic, though. They do a lot of heavy lifting with a relatively lacking script. It needed more polish on the dialogue to make it feel like actual human beings are saying some of the lines. The moments where it’s supposed to have high drama in the film feel deflating because the dialogue is stunted. It’s nothing on the performers. They do a fine to a great job.
Those moments of high drama aren’t helped by the fact that sometimes the film’s lighting makes it look more like an SNL sketch than a bigger-budget horror movie.
It all comes back to what Five Nights At Freddy’s was going for. Is it a straight horror movie? Or is it going for more of a younger audience? I’d say that Five Nights At Freddy’s might actually be okay for some younger kids to see. There are definitely frightening moments, but they’re few and far between. Kids might enjoy this movie more than adults will because of that. Five Nights At Freddy’s feels like it was rushed. Did they strike while the iron was hot with this IP? Probably not. Independent filmmakers got out a better FNAF movie in Willy’s Wonderland, and that was in 2021.
What we get with this iteration on the horror video game series is something that might appeal to younger audiences, but die-hard fans might not enjoy as much. They do have bits and pieces of the lore from the games, and it sets up for more sequels. Those sequels will have to have more scares, more blood, and more gore for this series to survive, though. It can’t carry much more if they keep going down this squeaky clean path.
Five Nights At Freddy’s ends up as a movie that isn’t quite scary, doesn’t have a very good script, and the monsters don’t do much at all. However, it still entertains and keeps you invested because of the performances from Josh Hutcherson and Matthew Lillard. The third act of the film, in particular, is pretty thrilling, and they save a lot of the action for it. There’s enough here, but your mileage might vary.
Five Nights At Freddy’s releases in theaters and on Peacock on October 27th.
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