By Carter James
I haven’t finished a single game. I’ve never read any lore. I don’t watch Game Theory.
I couldn’t care less about “Five Nights at Freddy’s.” My only attachment to the franchise is through the annoying memes. Why did I see the movie twice? I have a chronic case of FOMO.
The first time I saw it on my own, I thought it would be the first and last time. I went again on Halloween with friends because it’s better than doing nothing. I’ve realized that most video game movies aren’t good because the creatives behind them are lazy, and “FNAF” proved this once again. Since I already know the fanbase is going to have me hung and quartered for my honest opinion: your movie is a melatonin gummy.
The film is about Mike, a recently unemployed security guard who gets a job looking after a rundown Chuck E Cheese rip-off, Freddy’s Pizzeria. The animatronics at the pizzeria set out to kill Mike.
Unless you’re a fan of the games or are 6 years old, bring a pillow. The fans must be coping when they said they loved this movie because I was bored both times. “Five Nights at Freddy’s” is a run-of-the-mill horror movie with ineffective jump scares and a shaky plot. It’s almost as if co-writer and creator of the games, Scott Cawthon, just took the lore of his games and tried to stitch together a passable-enough story.
I believe possessed animatronics can be scary. But, in “Five Nights at Freddy’s,” they’re comical. The actual animatronics created for the movie are well-made but are in no way effective on screen. I couldn’t take them seriously for a second. I cackled multiple times whenever the next kill would be set up. Some of the kills were decent, but never did I feel any sense of danger or fear factor. It doesn’t help that the movie is PG-13 either. The film would’ve been better if we saw the animatronics kill someone on screen.
Even though the movie is less than two hours, it’s a slugfest.
Five nights felt like fifteen. What’s even worse is that the third act rushes to make sense of the plot. Giving credit where credit is due, the film parallels the game’s formula. More is revealed each night, which eventually hurts the film. Using the last 15 minutes to reveal everything comes off as messy and from left-field.
Emma Tammi is a director I’m not familiar with, and “Five Night at Freddy’s” was an okay first-impression. She’s competent, has nice visual presentation and gets good performances out of her cast. However, when it comes to the horror set pieces, she’s pretty cut and dry. This is as basic of a horror film as it gets, and Tammi’s direction is a part of that.
Besides killer animatronics, when Mike is not being a security guard, he struggles to take care of his younger sister. The emotional story offers something worthwhile when the rest of the movie leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Weirdly, the conventionalism of the movie helps in delivering a more compelling, dramatic story rather than a horror story.
If there’s one thing to look forward to, it’s the return of Josh Hutcherson. The short king gives one of his best performances to date as Mike. His performance makes you at least care for the brother/sister story. Piper Rubio plays Mike’s younger sister, Abby, and gives a strong performance for being a young actor. Even Elizabeth Lail, who plays the exposition machine Vanessa, does a good job with what little she’s given. Mathew Lillard fans are vindicated for the five minutes he’s in the film.
Surprisingly, this movie is well made in a technical sense. Lyn Moncrief is a cinematographer who I’ll be paying attention to in the future, because a film this poorly-written should not look this good. I’m shocked to say that the “Five Nights at Freddy’s” movie has some of the best cinematography I’ve ever seen in a video game movie. Jim Henson’s Creature Shop did an excellent job bringing the animatronics to life because this movie would’ve been unwatchable if Freddy Fazbear was CGI.
“Five Nights at Freddy’s” is a barely coherent mess of a movie that fans seem to adore, but one I can’t get behind. When the focus isn’t on the decent character arc, I might as well have had a white noise machine on. I can’t even say this is the wasted potential of talented filmmakers because the story is so restrictive that I never saw any cinematic flourish on screen. Josh Hutcherson and the rest of the cast gave good performances, which compelled me to at least stay somewhat engaged. If there was more of a focus on delivering a good horror movie rather than cramming in nonsensical lore, maybe I would care to review this movie with a crumb of respect. Play stupid games, win stupid prizes. My decision to review this film is the most respect “FNAF” fans will get.