After 8-years in development limbo, the long-awaited adaptation of the popular horror franchise “Five Nights at Freddy’s” is finally here. Courtesy of Blumhouse, the beloved video games by Scott Cawthon come to life on the big screen with big stars like Josh Hutcherson and Matthew Lillard.
I must admit right off the bat that I have only ever played two of the 10 mainline “FNAF” games. However, I have kept pretty up to date with the ever-sprawling lore (shoutout to LS Mark on YouTube for having the best and most compact summary of the lore). So, seeing the early reviews being divisive to say the least, I was cautiously optimistic.
I need to preface that I do not believe in the philosophy that movies made for the fans can only be good for the fans. Look at “Spider-Verse” for example, it is filled with tons of easter eggs and references for die-hard Spider-Man fans, but still delivered a story and character casual viewers could latch on to. However, I think that is where “Five Nights at Freddy’s” falters.
The film’s greatest strength truly lies with its title characters. The fully animatronic Freddy, Bonnie, Chica and Foxy are incredibly entertaining to see so accurately brought to life on screen. Jim Henson’s Creature Shop really outdid themselves as they ripped the designs straight from the first video game installment. Every scene set inside the pizzeria is automatically made much more entertaining knowing those hulking metal masses are lurking around.
I also have to give a shout to Matthew Lillard as Steve Raglan. While I was incredibly disappointed to learn that Lillard was only in the movie for what ultimately amounts to 10 minutes of screentime, he owns every second of it.
Unfortunately, the rest of the characters are where the film begins to talespin out of control. Hutcherson is quite literally asleep at the wheel for most of the movie. And while the chemistry between him and young actress Piper Rubio is convincing enough, he just seems bored throughout. I also feel bad for “YOU” actress Elizabeth Lail who plays Vanessa. The performance itself is not terrible, but the character is just horribly written and made certain scenes a drag to get through.
I think another major fault of the movie is the PG-13 rating. While the “FNAF” fanbase is mostly on the younger side, there is still a sizeable majority that are of drinking age. After all, the first game is almost 10 years old. The rating greatly holds back the scare factor the film was trying to go for. Every kill is done off screen with little to no blood. Even the scene that many long-time fans have been waiting to see brought to life is pretty underwhelming.
I will not deny that I had a fun time with “Five Nights at Freddy's,” but I feel for most casual moviegoers the film does little to make them want to seek out the source material. Whenever the iconic animatronics are on-screen the movie jumps out significantly in entertainment value and there are plenty of fun nods for the fans. However, references can only make a movie go so far. I do not think anyone will regret watching this movie, but I cannot say it is going to leave a massive impact when all is said and done.
“Five Nights at Freddy’s” is currently streaming on Peacock and in theaters.