01st Nov2023

‘Five Nights at Freddy’s’ Review #2

by Matthew Turner

Stars: Josh Hutcherson, Piper Rubio, Elizabeth Lail, Matthew Lillard, Mary Stuart Masterson, Kat Conner Sterling, David Lind, Christian Stokes, Joseph Poliquin | Written by Scott Cawthon, Seth Cuddeback, Emma Tammi | Directed by Emma Tammi

It’s an established fact that popular video games rarely make good movies, and so it proves with Five Nights at Freddy’s. Produced by Blumhouse and co-written by game creator Scott Cawthorn, the film should have been a fun little scarefest packed with creepy suspense moments, but instead it’s a drab disappointment thanks to a dismal and messy script that fails to capitalise on the game’s core appeal.

Josh Hutcherson stars as Mike Schmidt, who accepts a job as a security guard after a meeting with his careers counsellor (Matthew Lillard), in part because he needs financial security in order to stop his interfering aunt (Mary Stuart Masterson) from taking custody of his young sister Abby (Piper Rubio). The job involves being a night watchman at Freddy Fazbear’s, a disused and abandoned former pizzeria-slash-arcade, whose signature feature was a bunch of giant animatronic animal characters.

Mike is also traumatised by the kidnapping of his younger brother a few years earlier, an event that broke his family apart. As a result, he’s been drugging himself to sleep in order to relive a haunting memory and maybe find some clues to his brother’s disappearance, but the pizzeria isn’t exactly conducive to sleeping on the job.

The performances, at least, are decent. Hutcherson gives Mike a perpetually exhausted, downbeat demeanour that works well, while Mary Stuart Masterson is suitably over-the-top and borderline camp as the villainous aunt. Similarly, Lillard milks his cameo for maximum creepiness, while YOU’s Elizabeth Lail does her best with local cop Vanessa, despite the fact that her character might as well be renamed Officer Exposition.

Unfortunately, all the actors are underserved by the lacklustre script, which gives too much weight to Mike’s backstory (his lengthy dream sequence is replayed multiple times) and seemingly can’t be bothered to come up with anything fun for the central location. Accordingly, the much-anticipated moments when the robot animals come to life and start killing people are both thin on the ground and lacking in imagination, as well as being hampered by a family-friendly PG-13 rating in the US (it’s a 15 in the UK, but don’t let that fool you).

The film has other problems too – for example, the production design is dull and drab, rather than capitalising on the colourful potential of the pizzeria’s former glory. And the script is all over the place, with key sequences (one character’s disappearance) completely missing and a poorly conceived story that never achieves anything resembling either shock or emotional impact.

The only good thing that can be said about the film is that at least the animatronic characters are practical effects courtesy of the Jim Henson Company rather than CGI monstrosities, but that only makes it all the more disappointing that they feature so infrequently in their own film. File this under wasted opportunity, especially if you’re a big fan of the games themselves.

** 2/5

Five Nights at Freddy’s is in cinemas now.


Comments are closed.