Five Nights at Freddy's

Five Nights at Freddy's

2023, PG-13, 110 min. Directed by Emma Tammi. Starring Josh Hutcherson, Piper Rubio, Lucas Grant, Matthew Lillard, Mary Stuart Masterson, Kat Conner Sterling, Elizabeth Lail.

REVIEWED By Alejandra Martinez, Fri., Nov. 3, 2023

Five Nights at Freddy’s, the 2014 smash hit game known for its creepy horror atmosphere, extensive lore, and jump scares, has finally made its big-screen debut. It’s an undertaking 10 years in the making, leaving fans waiting with bated breath. Ultimately, the movie undertaking of Five Nights at Freddy’s may leave the most hardcore fans satisfied, with plenty of nods, Easter eggs, and dedicated re-creations from the game in tow. It may also be a good gateway film for young horror fans, with the film delivering low-level scares suited for those just jumping into the genre. For casual viewers and hardcore horror fans, however, it could read as a confusing, slow, predictable time at the movies.

Mike (Hutcherson) is in dire straits. He’s the sole caretaker of his little sister, Abby (Rubio), and can’t hold down a job. He’s haunted by the disappearance of their little brother, Garrett (Grant), obsessed enough to try and use a nightly routine of sleeping pills, nature sounds, and a visual aid to search his dreams for answers to Garrett’s disappearance. When their cartoonishly villainous Aunt Jane (Masterson) threatens to take full custody of Abby, Mike decides to take a sketchy job recommended by his career counselor (Lillard) to make ends meet. He has to spend nights keeping people out of Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza, a decrepit relic of 1980s cheese that’s seemingly been left to rot with the animatronics inside. Soon enough, Mike will discover the grim truth about the abandoned pizzeria and the job he’s taken out of desperation.

The story beats of Five Nights at Freddy’s plod along dutifully, leading to “twists” and “turns” that seasoned horror viewers will see coming from a mile away but will delight fans of the franchise (gasps and gleeful yelps peppered the advanced screening audience full of FNAF fans) and younger viewers. The film flits between broadening the appeal of the story with the addition of Abby (Rubio’s performance is a bright spot here) and delivering cameos and faithful re-creations of the game's murderous animatronics that can feel alienating for the uninitiated. It’s a tight line the film walks and then eventually abandons in favor of delivering on fan service. It also seems to abandon genuine scares to appeal to its younger audience as well. Scarewise, the film uses the limitations of its PG-13 rating well, offering grisly off-camera deaths that are better left to the imagination. Aside from that, the jump scares in this are about as scary as a jack-in-the-box.

This is all to say that for those out of the loop (or already deeply into the horror genre), Five Nights at Freddy’s doesn’t offer anything new or interesting in the genre. With dreary visuals and a lack of real twists or scares, there isn’t much here for a general audience to hold onto. Die-hard fans will be satisfied, however, and for young newcomers to horror, it might just be a perfect scarefest and jumping-off point into the genre.

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Five Nights at Freddy's, Emma Tammi, Josh Hutcherson, Piper Rubio, Lucas Grant, Matthew Lillard, Mary Stuart Masterson, Kat Conner Sterling, Elizabeth Lail

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