Five Nights at Freddy’s Movie Review
Five Nights at Freddy’s Movie Review Metadata
Some of us have been waiting for years for Five Nights at Freddy’s (2023), based on the survival horror video game, to hit the big screen, but I’m not sure it’s going to be what everyone is expecting.
Mike (Josh Hutcherson) is a man scraping by with low-wage jobs and a lot of past trauma dealing with his missing brother. He’d probably be happy, or at least less stressed, living in a van down by the river. Instead, he has the full-time care of his younger sister, Abby (Piper Rubio) who we’ll just describe as “different.” Facing homelessness and a custody battle, he accepts a night security job at a derelict pizza parlor, empty for years due to child disappearances which can understandably kill business (ho-ho!). Over the next few nights, Mike encounters the still-active denizens of Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza Parlor, sentient animatronics with a taste for blood. Despite the really terrible hints that shiftless cop Vanessa (Elizabeth Lail) tries to drop in order to keep him away, Mike is determined to keep his job, hang on to his sister, and find his brother’s abductor.
It is simultaneously a lot and not enough for 111 minutes.
Five Nights at Freddy’s could best be described as “deliberately paced.” Director Emma Tammi takes great care in establishing compassion, empathy, and family, which would be great if this were an ABC after-school special and not a horror movie. Emma Tammi is best known for the 10-episode podcast, “The Left Right Game”, and while dialogue is great in an audio story, it’s a drag for horror movies. Lots of drama and tension, but if you’ve been around the movie theater a few times, this will feel slow and uneven. There isn’t the non-stop action of a slasher or even the taut dread of a ghost story, and let’s be honest, we’re a little over the creepy kid trope. However, if you’re new to the genre and this is your first PG-13 movie without the ‘rents, then this is right up your alley.
There were plenty of easter eggs, all of which I missed because I’ve never played Five Nights at Freddy’s or so much as dipped a toe into the lore, but by the reaction of the scores of tweens and teens, it was hitting all of the marks. Supporting roles by nearly-unrecognizable Matthew Lillard and Mary Stuart Masterson will make the over-40 set feel old as dirt. There’s even a cameo by YouTuber CoryxKenshin (credited as Cory Williams) that sent the audience into a froth. I don’t know who he is, but the kids were excited.
The rest of us will anticipate the beats, barely flinch at the jump scares, and see the reveal coming a mile away. We’ve seen this movie more than once, but at least this time around it was stylishly done.
This is not to say Five Nights at Freddy’s isn’t interesting. The loose mystery with the missing brother, the aimless cop, and the underlying fear of being trapped in an abandoned arcade where the animatronic characters are trying to kill you is fairly compelling. It’s just not scary. This is not the Five Nights at Freddy’s I was expecting, but again, I’m not into the lore, the YouTube walk-throughs, or the merch. For the hype, and there has been a lot of hype in the preceding years, I was expecting more thrills, more kills, and more blood. Instead, I got bemusement.
It won’t surprise you to know that Five Nights at Freddy’s looks to be set up for a sequel, so it has that going for it. By the reaction of the audience who gathered in the lobby and waited for rides, it will be warmly received. I hope they enjoy it just as much.
Five Nights at Freddy’s (2023) is rated PG-13 for black-eyed children, people getting slashed, stabbed, and shot, large menacing animatronics, child abduction, and assault in a public fountain.