Is that Freddy Fazbear? Why yes, it is! On Friday, October 27th the long-rumored “Five Nights at Freddy’s” movie made its debut in theatres just days before Halloween, marking the franchise’s first live-action entry to the series. Originally announced in 2015, this film takes Scott Cawthon’s Freddy Fazbear to the big screen in stunning detail, with practical and visual effects that exceed expectations for a movie of this caliber.
This film takes place during the early 2000s from the perspective of Mike Schmidt (Josh Hutcherson), a troubled man raising his younger sister Abigail (Piper Rubio) years after watching his younger brother Garrett (Lucas Grant) be abducted in front of him. Scarred from losing his brother as a child and doing his best to take care of his little sister, Mike takes a job as a security guard working nights at the run-down, Chucky Cheese-themed pizzeria called Freddy Fazbear’s, where he begins to notice strange things unfold at night while watching the security monitors.
The “Five Nights at Freddy’s” video games are notorious for their use of jump scares, and unfortunately, that is something that doesn’t seem to make its way much into the film adaptation. There are a few effective jump scares, but for a franchise that is notorious for making its players fall out of their seats screaming, the film sadly falls short of that reputation. What does manage to translate, however, is the sense of dread that Mike isn’t alone at Freddy’s, using the right angles, background blur, and other cinematography techniques to suggest that a jump scare is on the horizon, but it never seems to deliver on that expectation.
This movie explores the interesting concept of returning to dreams and searching for details in a memory, as Mike drifts off frequently to try and recall details of his brother’s kidnapper. While this is an interesting plot device, it often overpowers the survival aspect of the film as it takes up more screen time than the actual sequences of Freddy and the gang lurking around the corridors of the pizzeria. Also, Mike has a severe case of plot armor, largely oblivious to the animatronics for most of the movie, until a couple of throwaway characters find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The story itself is cohesive and easy to follow, taking a contemporary approach with Mike’s trauma of losing his brother and the occasional exposition dump from other characters. The writers manage to stay fairly consistent with the story of the first game, an impressive feat considering its simple premise. However, the addition of Mikes custody battle for his younger sister, while providing good character motivation for taking the job at Freddy’s, ends up taking a bit too much screentime from the nightmarish nightshift we were expecting.
Overall, the “Five Nights at Freddy’s” movie is a fun experience with friends but struggles to live up to the franchise’s frightening reputation. The pacing feels off, failing to deliver much of a sense of urgency. Its tone is inconsistent, appearing at times to want to be scarier and gorier only to tone down the experience until it is like a campy episode of Scooby-Doo. Consequently, it only lands as a gateway horror film for a much younger audience and merits a rating of 4/10. If you’re looking for a genuinely scary experience this Halloween, you won’t find it here.
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