Review: Five Nights at Freddy’s

Score:  C-

Director:  Emma Tammi

Cast:  Josh Hutcherson, Elizabeth Lail, Piper Rubio, Matthew Willard, Mary Stuart Masterson

Running Time:  110 Minutes

Rated:  PG-13

"I made a mistake. I don't want this."

Video game adaptations are a perilous field to sow one's oats. Not only does the IP come with a vigorously loyal fan base, but the film needs to expand on the game's established appeal to succeed. Blumhouse's Five Nights at Freddy's works to overpower the odds by giving fans a reason to put down the controller and head to their local cinema. For a few, they (and the film) will prevail. But for most, none of what they see will make sense.

Unique from the onset, Emma Tammi's adaptation sees Mike (Josh Hutcherson), a mall security guard, lose his job after assaulting a negligent father who he mistakes for a kidnapper. In desperate need of a job to provide for his sister, he takes the first offer his career counselor Steve Raglan (Matthew Lillard) gives him: a night guard gig at the abandoned, run-down Freddy Fazbear's Pizza.

Those familiar with developer Scott Cawthon's indie video game will recognize the setting as Mike ventures through the debris on his first night, uncovering a Chick E. Cheese rip-off with odd, peculiar-looking animatronic creatures lurking in the background. And though the critters offer a run of jump scares, helped tremendously by the otherwise latent soundtrack, the core problem is inarguable: they aren't scary.

Attempting to capture the unusual tone of its source material, Five Nights at Freddy's suffers from a long list of insurmountable oversights. The most dominant one? The creatures are neither frightening nor intimidating. Creepy? Sure. Dirty and worn? Most definitely. But one, and I'm not even kidding, is an actual cupcake.

Caught red-handed between the plethora of opportunities that exist within the R-rated world and the handcuffs that come with a family-friendly offering, the film struggles to find its identity as it works its way through a meager, sparse narrative.

With time, we learn that Freddy's shut down due to a string of missing children. During a family trip, Mike's brother was abducted. He's been unable to move past the event, taking pills to help him dream his way back to that day in hopes of solving the crime that tore his family apart.

Tammi works from a script credited to her, Cawthon, and Seth Cuddeback. She does her best to occupy the time with meaningful backstories, working to justify the existence of murderous animatronic beings. I don't blame her for this complete misfire. I'm not sure I feel justified to blame anyone. The formula merely doesn't translate.

Some of the more interesting moments in the film come within Mike's dreams. Flashbacks to the day of his brother's abduction provide little context to the overall story. However, Mike's injuries appear to translate into real life. We never explore that connection. It is also never explained. Instead, it gives us one more unresolved story tangent—a frayed end leading nowhere.

But that is, in large part, the primary theme surrounding Five Nights at Freddy's. Though the story works within the video game medium, it doesn't translate well to the big screen. That said, the film will make money. Blumhouse is good at ensuring that. Viewers have to hope they don't misinterpret the profit for a viable franchise. Amidst everything this film offers, the thought of a sequel is its scariest component.

*This film is available in theaters and streaming on Peacock.


About Stephen Davis

Stephen Davis
I owe this hobby/career to the one and only Stephanie Peterman who, while interning at Fox, told me that I had too many opinions and irrelevant information to keep it all bottled up inside. I survived my first rated R film, Alive, at the ripe age of 8, it took me months to grasp the fact that Julia Roberts actually died at the end of Steel Magnolias, and I might be the only person alive who actually enjoyed Sorority Row…for its comedic value of course. While my friends can drink you under the table, I can outwatch you when it comes iconic, yet horrid 80s films like Adventures in Babysitting and Troop Beverly Hills. I have no shame when it comes to what I like, and if you have a problem with that, then we’ll settle it on the racquetball court. I see too many movies to actually win any film trivia contest, so don’t waste your first pick on me. My friends rent movies from my bookcase shelves, and one day I do plan to start charging. I long to live in LA, where my movie obsession will actually help me fit in, but for now I am content with my home in Austin. I prefer indies to blockbusters, Longhorns to Sooners and Halloween to Friday the 13th. I miss the classics, as well as John Ritter, and I hope to one day sit down and interview the amazing Kate Winslet.