Review: Wallowing through “Five Nights at Freddy’s”

Review: Wallowing through “Five Nights at Freddy’s”

As the video game adaptation renaissance continues, the one property that was stuck in development hell for 8 years is finally being released to the world. While the clearly inspired Willy’s Wonderland beat it to market, fans have been clamoring for the real world representation of Five Nights at Freddy’s to hit the silver screen. While the final product is very true to the game’s dark story (with the help of the game’s creator Scott Cawthon as a screenwriter) the final product is so much more depressing and serious than one might have expected.

Mike Schmidt (the always underappreciated Josh Hutcherson) is stuck in a cycle of bad luck. After misreading a situation where he thought a man was trying to kidnap a child who turned out to be the man’s son, Mike is once again out of a job. He’s trying desperately to keep his head above water as he also is the caretaker for his young sister, (Abby Piper Rubio). If Mike can’t find a new gig soon, custody of Abby will be remanded to their evil Aunt Jane (Mary Stuart Masterson). This leaves Mike no choice but to accept the only job offer on the table. An overnight security gig at a defunct children’s themed pizzeria that contains some strange secrets.

I’ve never played the Five Nights at Freddy’s games, but I’ve certainly watched a whole slew of people playing it through YouTube videos. The story lines were never lost on me. Yet, the final product in film form is still much more serious and dower than it needs to be. The game is basically an interactive version of those jump scare videos people would send each other in the early days of the internet. You are tasked with watching security cameras and need to figure out patterns that would stop the hulking animatronic inhabitants of the pizzeria from murdering you and turning you into one of them.

Photo by Courtesy of Blumhouse – © Blumhouse

It’s horror and death no matter what lens you view it through. But the ultimate goal was to pop back up with nervous laughter as you just feel out of your gaming chair as loud screams and “terrifying” visuals take you by surprise when you fail your task. It creates an aura of fun and whimsy by the time your heartbeat returns to normal. While there are brief glimpses of light airiness to the film, most of that released joy is sucked out of the room leaving a crushing cloud of drab sadness over the audience.

There needed to be a bit more fun and wackiness to help leverage the darker overtones of the tale of child abduction and murder. Your fan favorite video game inspired horror film should not have Mystic River as its most relatable counterpart. Add in the extra supernatural and dream walking aspects and you end up with “Five Nights at Freddy’s: True Detective Edition.” You don’t need the abstract, balls to the wall zaniness of Willy’s Wonderland, but a bit more levity would have done wonders to the end result.

Photo by Courtesy of Blumhouse – © Blumhouse

Lost logic in video game stories in their interactive forms is more forgivable as gameplay and atmosphere can add a lot more to the success of a game. But even in a film where you know what to expect, the lack of sensibility in any situation is all too present. You give yourself a good enough reason to stick Mike in this dead end job that he can’t leave, but the surrounding plot and clear inability to make any decent decisions (while a needed staple of any horror film) is mind boggling. 

It’s all a shame, too, as Five Nights at Freddy’s is a brilliant looking film that perfectly encapsulates the visual flare and style of the games. The animatronic beasties look perfect and the early call backs to the games most famous screenshots are perfect. But so much is lost in a balancing act that doesn’t know it even needs to exist. Five Nights at Freddy’s isn’t a bad movie, it’s just as misguided as its protagonist, which leaves a lot to yearn for.

Photo by Courtesy of Blumhouse – © Blumhouse

Final Grade: C+

Check out more of Matthew’s articles.

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