Can you survive five nights?
Five Nights at Freddy's is a 2023 supernatural horror film directed by Emma Tammi, written by Scott Cawthon, Seth Cuddeback, and Emma Tammi, produced by Blumhouse Productions, Scott Cawthon Productions, and Striker Entertainment, and distributed by Universal Pictures. It stars Josh Hutcherson and Elizabeth Lail. The film is based off of Scott Cawthon's video game franchise of the same name.
"I have a job for you. Piece of cake, really. It's a security gig." - Steve Raglan
Mike Schmidt, a young man with a troubled past, looks for a job to provide security for him and his little sister. When opportunity knocks with a security shift at an abandoned pizza restaurant, Mike takes the job, not knowing that it may not be totally abandoned.
Before I dive into this film, let me make it clear that I am not a Five Nights at Freddy's fan. I have played the games a few times before, but I'm not a religious follower of the franchise. So keep that in mind.
I think this movie definitely had a few things going for it. The production design here was absolutely fantastic. You can tell that the people working on this film are fans (or, in Scott Cawthon's case, creators) of this franchise. They bring Freddy Fazbear's Pizza Place and the animatronics to life in an awesome way. They use practical effects here, and it absolutely makes the movie significantly more fun to watch. All of the animatronics have a feeling of realism to them because they are actually there, not just digitally thrown in.
I also thought the lore to this film was effectively disturbing. I know that it draws directly from the games, but the backstory that they give Freddy's Pizza kind of freaks me out. I will get to this later, but I don't think this movie is scary at all. However, I found the lore surrounding everything to be incredibly creepy. It's the thing that has stuck with me most.
And I will acknowledge that if you are a FNAF fan, you will probably like this movie. There were easter eggs and cameos that my theater was clapping for. I went with one of my best friends, who is a FNAF fan, and he was loving a bunch of the references. The film is written and produced by the creator of the franchise, so he definitely gives the fans extra here.
However, I am not a FNAF fan, so I didn't really enjoy this film.
For the production design and lore being so great, I am shocked at how dull this movie felt.
This movie mainly suffers from an absolutely abysmal screenplay. This film is written by three people, none of who really have any screenwriting experience. Both Emma Tammi and Seth Cuddeback have never written a studio feature film...and Scott Cawthon is a video game developer. The screenplay is incredibly generic. It tries to have an intriguing mystery, but as soon as the mystery is introduced, it's very obvious where it's going. The dialogue is so cookie-cutter basic. The film tries to have an emotional undercurrent, but the writers never really establish the characters enough to have you care about them.
I also think Scott Cawthon being a writer didn't help, because there are plenty of things that never get explained in the movie that relates back to the lore. The supernatural element of the animatronics is half-explained but also creates plot holes with other subplots. The main character keeps having these dreams, but it's never really explained how or why he is having these dreams. They try to give it a bit of an explanation, but I don't buy it.
The movie is also incredibly short on horror. This movie is supposed to be a horror movie. Five Nights at Freddy's is a horror game. The film is an hour and fifty minutes. Probably fifteen of those minutes are actual horror scenes. The other hour and a half is spent trying to develop the characters...and dumping exposition all over the place.
And that's the biggest problem with this movie: the exposition. For anyone who doesn't know, exposition is when you have to tell the audience some information or backstory. Good movies find ways to do it creatively. For example, the beginning of Black Panther is a really cool and unique way to deliver exposition. Five Nights at Freddy's has multiple scenes where characters just sit down and say what the audience needs to know. They don't weave it into the plot. They don't make it interesting. They reveal things in the dumbest, dullest way possible. And it bogs the movie down.
The film is also really awkwardly structured. The opening scene is incredibly weird and contributes absolutely nothing to the plot. We then move into clunky character introductions and establish a conflict with the main character's aunt that is not really given a good resolution. The first time you see the animatronics come to life is about a third of the way into the movie. And the first time you see them be scary is probably closer to halfway into the movie. There was a point in time during the movie where I thought we had entered the third act, but I wasn't sure. It just made the movie more muddled and awkward than it already was.
This all goes back to my main thought about the film: Five Nights at Freddy's is not good source material for a film adaptation. There simply is not enough you can do to adapt FNAF into a feature-length story. The game is a survival game with a cool backstory, but that's about it. It was never meant to be a film. And I think this movie is clearly the result of a bad idea for an adaptation executed even worse.
Final Thoughts and Score
Hardcore FNAF fans will find this one entertaining, but I really, really didn't like this movie. A terrible screenplay combined with minimal horror made this one of the most boring movies of the year.
I will go Sour here. Age range is 9+.
SWEET N' SOUR SCALE
Sweet (Great) Savory (Good) Sour (Bad)
"Five Nights at Freddy's"
Fun Factor: 4/10
Directed by Emma Tammi
Rated PG-13 for moderate violence, frightening themes and images, language, thematic elements
Released on October 27, 2023
1 hour and 50 minutes
Josh Hutcherson as Mike Schmidt
Elizabeth Lail as Vanessa
Piper Rubio as Abby Schmidt
Matthew Lillard as Steve Raglan
Mary Stuart Masterson as Aunt Jane
Kat Connor Sterling as Max
Lucas Grant as Garrett Schmidt
Kevin Foster as Freddy Fazbear
Jade Kindar-Martin as Bonnie
Jessica Weiss as Chica
Roger Joseph Manning Jr. as Foxy