Review of Five Nights at Freddy’s: The horror game turned movie fails to deliver scares, making it a disappointing Halloween treat.
There are five nights to survive at the haunted Freddy Fazbear’s pizza place, but it feels like much longer in this poorly executed film adaptation of a popular video game. Clocking in at a sluggish 110 minutes, there is an excessive amount of dream sequences, explanations, and buildup in the first act, while lacking the expected fun and silliness one would anticipate from this type of movie.
The reason for this may be due to the fact that both writer-director Emma Tammi and game creator Scott Cawthon, who also served as co-writer, appear uncertain about the level of seriousness to approach Five Nights at Freddy’s with, leaving the audience feeling just as confused. The film jumps between serious discussions about childhood trauma and silly, cartoonish antics typically found in children’s movies, creating a tonal imbalance that is both awkward and frustratingly dull. The unraveling of the predictable and uninteresting mystery only adds to the disappointment of a film centered around murderous animatronic animals, causing one to constantly check their watch.
The story of Five Nights at Freddy’s centers around a rundown pizza restaurant similar to Chuck E Cheese, known for its unhealthy food and live performance by robotic mascots. Despite being closed for years, the restaurant still requires a security guard to keep people out, a job recently given to troubled wanderer Mike (played by Josh Hutcherson from Hunger Games) with assistance from strange career counselor Steve (portrayed by Matthew Lillard). After the loss of his parents, Mike is also responsible for taking care of his younger sister, all while dealing with the interference of his nosy aunt (played by a fierce Mary Stuart Masterson, who seems to be playing a villain trying to take away Beethoven). Mike is stuck in his past, constantly tormented by the disappearance of his brother when they were children, and tries to uncover the truth by reliving the day he went missing in his dreams. However, dozing off on the job may not be the most sensible decision…
Some older people may find the throwback B-movie setup appealing, not just because it is reminiscent of the 80s, but also because it brings to mind the horror movies of that era with their ridiculous concepts, such as Chopping Mall, Dolls, or Death Spa. However, a modernized version of this idea falls flat due to current genre issues. Instead of focusing on the entertaining aspect of watching possessed robot animals kill, the movie dwells on the uninteresting inner struggles of the main character. The film’s attempts at creating tension are hindered by its family-friendly PG-13 rating, resulting in dull and poorly censored death scenes. Even with more violence, the director Tammi would struggle to build the suspense that viewers expect. The use of a ball-pit in one scene is particularly disappointing and fails to create any excitement. The slow movements of the robotic villains also contribute to the film’s lack of intensity, a problem that Tammi is unable to overcome.
While the director does a decent job overall, her film stands out as more polished compared to other Halloween movies this year (particularly Amazon’s Totally Killer, which looks terrible in comparison). However, the flaws in the script cannot be overlooked, as it introduces a confusing and convoluted plot that never makes sense even with the long runtime. The numerous scenes of the main character, played by Hutcherson, getting information from a police officer (played by Elizabeth Lail) feel like unnecessary filler that could be skipped with a simple click. There is too much dialogue and not enough action, which is a major mistake considering the weak mystery at the core of the film. The big reveal is predictable and the final showdown is disappointing, with some over-the-top acting and failed attempts at emotional depth.
The excitement and anticipation we anticipate from this material, which typically occurs during a low-pressure, late-night setting, never materializes. This is due to a combination of hesitant restraint and an inflated sense of importance. Five Nights at Freddy’s is surprisingly tedious to complete and will likely be forgotten by the next morning.
The movie adaptation of Five Nights at Freddy’s is currently showing in theaters in the UK and will be available on October 27th in both theaters and on the Peacock streaming platform in the US.