‘Five Nights at Freddy’s’ Proves Some Things Shouldn’t Come Back

In 2014, the video game Five Nights at Freddy’ was created by Scott Cawthon and instantly became an internet sensation due to its ingenious storyline and horrifying jumpscares.

In 2014, the video game Five Nights at Freddy’ was created by Scott Cawthon and instantly became an internet sensation due to its ingenious storyline and horrifying jumpscares. Less than a year later, a movie for the beloved video game was announced, according to the Hollywood Reporter

Yet, despite eight years of anticipation, the only thing the Five Nights at Freddy’s movie successfully accomplishes is disappointing fans. 

Based mainly on the first game, “Five Nights at Freddy’s” follows recently fired mall cop Mike Schmidt (Josh Hutcherson) taking care of his little sister Abby (Piper Rubio). When his aunt threatens to take custody of Abby, Mike takes the job as an overnight security guard at an abandoned family diner named Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza. 

Unbeknownst to him, the animatronics inhabiting the diner are possessed by the souls of children murdered in the same location in the 1980s. As Mike uncovers more about the man behind the killings, he discovers a personal connection linking his family to the tragedy. 

Despite the movie being based on a video game known for its gore, jumpscares and overall horror, it’s unsuccessful in cultivating a sense of suspense and fear. Most jumpscares are easily predictable and fall flat due to awkward camera shots and cliché action sequences. 

Casting Hutcherson (“The Hunger Games,” “Bridge to Terabithia”) was a successful decision done by the casting director. He excels in depicting the perpetually stressed and sleep deprived security guard. 

Powerhouse Matthew Lillard, who plays the mysterious man who offers Mike the job as a night guard Steve Raglan, also gives a memorable performance as a sadistic and unhinged villain, despite being given only two scenes. 

In both scenes, Lillard (“Scream,” “Scooby-Doo” )uses an unsettling tone of voice and unhinged facial expressions to nail his character’s sadism. 

Elizabeth Lail’s depiction of Vanessa — a police officer with connections to the pizzeria — is less impressive. Much of this can be attributed to lack of character development for Vannessa in the game, who largely remains stagnant throughout. Lail (“You,”  “Once Upon a Time”) still manages to bring life to her role through her character’s vulnerable moments.  

The younger cast members also gave outstanding performances. Grant Feely, who plays the child possessing Freddy Fazbear, gives an exceptional portrayal of a vengeful and unsettling ghost child through his terrifying demeanor and threatening tone. Likewise, Piper Rubio utilizes vacant facial expressions and blunt line delivery to depict the 10-year-old Abby as an introverted yet sweet girl.

Despite strong performances from the leading actors, the acting from side characters was off-putting and nearly impossible to take seriously. Aunt Jane was especially hard to watch since her dialogue, facial expressions and mannerisms made her akin to a cartoon villain. 

If the astonishingly awful performances from side characters wasn’t enough to divert the audience’s attention away from their viewing experience, the atrocious script likely was. At some points in the film, dialogue between characters felt clunky, unnatural and awkward. 

In addition to the unnatural dialogue, the script fails to convey a cohesive plot. Characters and plot lines not featured in the game are introduced without any relevance to the main story. Some scenes are so out of place, it’s like they were taken out of a different movie. 

Given the Five Nights at Freddy’s franchise’s endless intriguing lore, it’s surprising the movie’s creators would choose not to draw inspiration from them. 

There is also a severe lack of focus on the animatronics themselves. The animatronics are an impressive feat of puppeteering — each part of the animatronic is controlled by a crew member by a remote control device according to Entertainment Weekly. The impressive practical effects behind the animatronics, coupled with the fact they are the faces of the franchise, make their lack of screen time even more disappointing. 

The film’s saving grace is the way it brings the games to life. The set design perfectly encapsulates what a cheesy 1980s diner would look like through arcade games, gaudy decorations and bright, neon lights. 

Numerous references to the games appear as Easter eggs for dedicated fans, like surprise appearances from animatronics across different Five Nights at Freddy’s games as well as cameos from popular youtubers. 

“Five Nights at Freddy’s” is in theaters and streaming on Peacock now.

Featured image courtesy of Universal Pictures

Sydney Amaya

Sydney Amaya