'Five Nights at Freddy's' review: Hit the reset button
Courtesy of Universal/Blumhouse
Finally released after years in development hell, the adaptation of Scott Cawthon’s best selling video game “Five Nights at Freddy’s” is strictly made for those who know the deep and expansive lore of the franchise, while casual viewers will be left stranded.
Guaranteed to get the middle school fanbase their fix (good for them), “FNAF,” comes from the folks over at Blumhouse and despite an authentic production design that brings the world to vivid life and stupendous animatronics from the Jim Henson Creature Shop, the movie has no sense of direction or rhythm. It wants to juggle several crucial storylines from the games and never finds a meaningful way of incorporating them into the plot. What made the games so terrifying and suspenseful, especially the first one, was their simplicity. Here, director Emma Tammi and co-writers Cawthon and Seth Cuddeback don’t go for broke. Setting for a soft PG13 rather than hard R-rated carnage, and juggling between comedy and horror, “Five Nights at Freddy’s” never stays in its lane.
Like the video game, the movie follows a night security guard who is hired to look after an abandoned pizza restaurant called Freddy Fazbear’s, which was closed in the ‘80s after a slew of children went missing. Teenage heartthrob Josh Hutcherson plays Mike, who reluctantly takes the gig because he needs to prove he can support his younger sister, Abby (Piper Rubio) or risk losing her in a custody battle with his sniveling Aunt (Mary Stuart Masterson). It’s a weird and uninvolving subplot that has very minimal payoff. Not only do we never get a sense of the connection these two have outside a few brief interactions, but they had a younger brother who was abducted at a young age. Surely, that would cause some turmoil or trauma that would warrant some discussion outside of the usual: “we had a brother once.” But in this movie, it only serves as a shameless backstory to somewhat explain why murderous animatronics are coming to life inside Freddy Fazbear’s.
Speaking of animatronics, they are a thing of beauty. And those who grew up playing the games either at home or huddled inside their college dorm with the lights off (guilty as charged) will delight in their attention to detail, even if they aren’t used in terrifying methods. I know this was made with a wider audience in mind, but I can’t help and imagine where this could’ve gone had the filmmakers cut their teeth on an R rating. I’m not sure it would’ve saved the mundane plotting, but some memorable thrills may have arisen from the ashes.
Rounding out the cast is Matthew Lillard, who tries to understand the assignment, playing a shady job recruiter who is adamant Mike take the security guard gig and Elizabeth Lail as a local police officer who is sniffing around and asking questions. She’s also set up as a potential love interest for Mike as if the movie didn’t have a hundred other things happening. Like the rushed ending which throws a major character revelation into the mix for no other purpose than to not anger scorns of fans who were expecting it. But perhaps the biggest head scratcher comes midway through the movie when the killer animatronics decide to have a kiddie dance party and build a blanket fort!
Akin to most of the choices throughout the movie, it just doesn’t make sense.
FIVE NIGHTS AT FREDDY’S is now playing in theaters and streaming on Peacock.