Friday 27 October 2023

Five Nights at Freddy's (Movie Review)

2023 has been a great year for video game adaptations. We've had the phenomenal The Last of Us on HBO Max, which was not only faithful to its source material but also managed to translate flawlessly into a serialized TV format. Then of course we also got The Super Mario Bros. Movie, a film that was an instant hit with fans, going on to gross more than a billion dollars at the worldwide box office. And now it seems that it is time for fans of Five Nights at Freddy's to get in on the action as the familiar band of killer animatronics makes the jump onto the big and small screen. But does the film capture that sense of dread the games are known for or does it instead bring back the dreaded video game movie curse?

The film centers upon Mike Schmidt, a troubled young man who lands a job as a nighttime security guard at an abandoned family entertainment center called Freddy Fazbear's Pizza. Unable to find a babysitter for his younger sister one night, he decides to bring her along with him to spend the night there. But it doesn't take long into his shifts before he realizes that its empty rooms and hallways are haunted after midnight by its eponymous animatronic mascot, along with three others just like it. Now he must do whatever he can to survive long enough to cash his paycheck.

The Five Nights at Freddy's video games are renowned not only for their effective jump scares but for their lore-filled stories as well. And all that is presented to the player in a stripped-down presentation with very minimal setup or exposition. All you need to know is that you are a night guard at a defunct pizzeria who needs to fend off a group of killer animatronics in order to survive five nights as the title suggested. And while I've never actually played any of the games myself, I've still, like many others, watched enough Let's Plays on YouTube to understand what the noise is about.

So heading into this long-awaited movie adaptation, I expected to see the same barebones approach to horror but with perhaps some more character development and buildup to better fill out the film's overall runtime. But in its quest to give our main characters some backstory, the movie gets bogged down in the kind of melodrama that makes its leads come across as dull and uncharismatic. It didn't exactly help that a lot of its dialogue felt forced and unnatural, serving largely to telegraph character intentions or foreshadow future events.

All that can be forgiven of course, if the movie was at least self-aware enough to lean into its inherent cheesiness. This was in fact what had helped elevate Willy's Wonderland, another recent movie that was inspired by the Five Nights at Freddy's video games. But here we instead get a self-serious tone that often felt at odds with the ridiculousness of its onscreen action. And without the natural charms and star power of an actor like Nicolas Cage to help bridge that gap, it becomes increasingly difficult to care about any of it.

This was never a problem in the video games mind you, mainly because the main character was there solely to serve as a surrogate for the player. This was why they worked so well in Let's Plays videos, as it allowed the player's reactions to the horrors it throws at them to come across to viewers in their purest form. And the film is sadly devoid of all the personality that the likes of PewDiePie and CoryxKenshin brought to those Let's Plays.

This is not to say that the movie is without some fun moments. It was nice seeing Cory make a cameo as a taxi driver, complete with jump scares that were reminiscent of his own Let's Plays of the game. It is just that the film takes too long before anything remotely interesting happens. And even when the killings begin, they are confined by the limitations of its low-budget production and a PG-13 rating.

Five Nights at Freddy's is about as dull as a video game adaptation can get without outright putting viewers to sleep. It completely squanders a simple yet interesting premise by sticking too closely to horror film conventions. And while it does faithfully recreate the various locations from the video games, as well as the animatronics that inhabit them, it still fails to convey their sense of dread or impending doom, nor does it successfully tap into the rich lore that continues to spark discourse among fans, at least not in any meaningful way.


  1. I figured as much. Willy's Wonderland knew what it was and played the crazy. Definitely skipping this one.

  2. I never played the games or anything but I saw the toys a few times and wondered what the heck it was. Anyway, it seems like a pretty thin premise to start with unless this is the biggest pizzeria in the world. Willy's Wonderland was pretty fun with the added weirdness of Cage never saying anything so you were always wondering what was up with him but never really getting an answer. Sad when Nic Cage can do better acting without speaking than any actor in this.

    1. The overall lore from the games goes pretty deep actually. But yeah, most of it never made it into the movie even though they share the same basic premise.

  3. <a href="</a>