Five Nights at Freddy’s is a horror film adaptation of the popular video game series of the same name, currently showing in cinemas. Having never even heard of the game I went into this purely for the incredibly creepy animatronic characters, but unfortunately, the film just couldn’t live up to its interesting premise.
The film follows Mike (Josh Hutcherson), a security guard at a shopping centre who loses his job after beating up a guest. As the sole carer for his young sister Abby (Piper Rubio), Mike is desperate to find a new job, especially with his Aunt Jane (Mary Stuart Masterson) threatening to take him to court to remove Abby from his custody. So when he’s offered an unappealing job by his career counsellor Steve Raglan (Matthew Lillard) to be a night guard at an abandoned pizzeria and family fun center, he jumps at the chance.
Mike reports for his first night shift at Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza, which after years of break-ins and vandalism, is kitted out with security cameras covering the entire premises. Mike’s job is to monitor the CCTV but instead, he falls asleep on his first night, dreaming of his younger brother Garrett whose kidnap he witnessed as a child. It’s a dream he’s had before, but this time is different as it features five children he’s never seen before.
After his first shift passes fairly uneventfully, the next night Mike finds police officer Vanessa (Elizabeth Lail) at the door of Freddy’s. She grew up visiting Freddy’s and keeps an eye on the place, filling Mike in on the history which involved the murders of five children on the premises back in the 1980s, where the suspect and bodies were never found. She also shows Mike the animatronic Freddy and his friends Chica, Bonny and Foxy, still standing on the stage and ready to perform their entertainment show.
Meanwhile, after Aunt Jane’s meddling leaves Mike without a babysitter for Abby, he takes her to spend the night with him at Freddy’s where the pair soon discover that Freddy and his friends have a life of their own. While initially seeming harmless, with the help of Vanessa Mike realises that the animal’s intentions are not entirely innocent and is determined to uncover the truth before more people, including Abby, are hurt.
The idea behind this film is a brilliant one, who wouldn’t want to watch huge murderous animatronic animals killing people in a creepy deserted restaurant? It’s just unfortunate that Five Nights at Freddy’s completely squanders all of its potential. The first warning sign is that this has a 15 certificate, which means it doesn’t have nearly enough blood and gore and this is evident by the fact that the few characters who die get killed mostly offscreen where little of their demise can be witnessed. There are also very few scares, a couple of jump scares mostly which aren’t bad but considering the incredibly creepy setting this is severely lacking in anything particularly scary or horrifying. Freddy and his friends look brilliant and genuinely terrifying, so the fact that the film hasn’t been able to properly utilise this and the restaurant setting to make a scary film beggars belief.
The main problem is that the film spends too long filling in the backstory for both Mike and Freddy’s restaurant in general. Having read up on the games afterwards, the backstory does at least follow what happens in the game series, but it just drags the pace of the film down far too much. Mike’s dream of his brother crops up more often than it should and it only begins to make sense nearer the end of the film, so for the most part it just becomes annoying. There are too many dialogue scenes trying to explain this backstory to the point where this almost feels like a drama rather than a horror. The exposition and backstory could have been much slicker, giving way for them to ramp up the scares and making a much more entertaining film overall.
What I did love to see was the return of Matthew Lillard to a horror film, which was very much welcome, especially playing the sinister career counsellor. I’d argue that the twist with his character was maybe a little too predictable, but seeing him in his element at least made it enjoyable. Josh Hutcherson too puts in a great, steady performance, it’s just a shame that these two are let down by such a weak horror story.
While boasting a promising story, wonderfully creepy monsters and a strong cast, Five Nights at Freddy’s sadly can’t live up to its potential. Instead, it delivers a rather forgettable and not particularly scary film.
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A contract manager moonlighting as a rather discerning film and book critic, with an almost fangirl appreciation for anything made by Christopher Nolan. When I’m not catching up on my latest read or watch, you can usually find me trying out my amateur baking skills – Bake Off here I come!