There are five nights to endure at the cursed old pizza place, Freddy Fazbear’s. However, this movie adaptation of a popular video game falls flat, as it stretches out to a lengthy 110 minutes, with excessive dream sequences, exposition, and buildup. It lacks the expected fun and silliness that one would anticipate from such a surface-level concept.
The reason for this may be that Emma Tammi, the writer-director, and Scott Cawthon, the game creator who also co-wrote the film, appear to be uncertain about how seriously they should approach Five Nights at Freddy’s. This leaves the audience feeling just as confused. The film swings between serious discussions about childhood trauma and cartoonish, childlike humor, creating a tonal imbalance that is both awkward and frustratingly uninteresting. A movie about killer animatronics should not have viewers constantly checking the time.
The story of Five Nights at Freddy’s follows a rundown pizza restaurant, reminiscent of Chuck E Cheese, that used to be popular among children. The place is now deserted, but a security guard is still needed to keep trespassers out. Recently hired for this unappreciated role is Mike, played by Josh Hutcherson (known for his role in The Hunger Games), who is struggling with personal issues. He receives guidance from the unsettling Steve, played by Matthew Lillard, a career counselor. Mike’s responsibility of taking care of his younger sister is complicated by his nosy aunt, portrayed by Mary Stuart Masterson who plays her role as if she were the villain in a movie trying to get rid of Beethoven. Mike is unable to move on from the disappearance of his brother during their childhood and spends his nights trying to uncover the truth by reliving the day he went missing in his dreams. However, this may not be the wisest decision while on duty…
For some, especially older newcomers, there is a nostalgic appeal to the over-the-top set-up of B-movies. This is not only due to the 80s era in which the movie is set, but also because it harkens back to the horror films of that time that were based on equally absurd concepts, such as Chopping Mall, Dolls, and Death Spa. However, a contemporary interpretation quickly loses its charm due to the issues inherent in the genre today. Instead of focusing on the fun of watching possessed robot animals wreak havoc, the film dwells on the internal struggles of a one-dimensional protagonist. Limited by a family-friendly PG-13 rating, the death scenes are dull and poorly censored. Even with more violence, director Tammi would struggle to create the necessary suspense that viewers expect. The film fails to raise one’s heart rate even once (a scene involving a ball pit is particularly disappointing), as the slow-moving and unimaginative villains prove to be an insurmountable problem for Tammi.
Despite the fact that the film is more polished than other Halloween offerings this year (such as Amazon’s Totally Killer), the director still falls short in many areas. The script introduces numerous flaws, with a convoluted and nonsensical plot that even with its extended runtime, fails to make any sense. The scenes with the lead character, played by Hutcherson, gaining information from a police officer played by Elizabeth Lail feel like filler and drag on for too long. The film relies too heavily on dialogue rather than the expected violence, which was a mistake since the audience was not invested enough in the weak mystery. The predictable reveal and lackluster climax are accompanied by overacting and attempts at emotion that come off as ridiculous.
The excitement that we anticipate from the material is never achieved, as it is held back by a combination of hesitant moderation and a misplaced sense of significance. Despite its potential, Five Nights at Freddy’s is a tedious experience that will likely be forgotten by morning.
The film version of Five Nights at Freddy’s is currently showing in UK theaters and will be available in US theaters and on Peacock streaming service on October 27th.