Successfully adapting a video game into a movie has proven to be quite difficult over the years. Catering to both longtime fans and new audiences, these adaptions need to be carefully balanced if they wish to avoid failure. Unfortunately, Five Nights at Freddy’s is another example of video game cinema gone wrong. Disregarding its simple concept in favour of a laborious narrative, those unaware of the franchise will, be left disappointed with this cinematic disaster.
Recently unemployed, a troubled security guard takes on a job guarding an abandoned pizzeria. As his first night begins, he quickly learns that he is not alone. The cast features Josh Hutcherson, Piper Rubio, Elizabeth Lail and Matthew Lillard.
The concept of the first Five Nights at Freddy’s videogame is simple. The player monitors a variety of security screens and does his best to prevent evil animatronics from reaching his location. This is a basic concept filled with effective scares. Sadly, the film adaptation chooses to stuff its plot with melodrama and mishandles the robotic monsters in the process.
Josh Hutcherson delivers a decent performance but the character he plays is both uninteresting and ineffective as a protagonist. His character arc is admirable but the narrative isn’t constructed well enough for the emotional journey it attempts. Considering this film’s synopsis and all the marketing surrounding it, the decision to spend so much time on characters explaining why they are sad is truly odd when you consider that this is a killer animatronic movie.
It takes over 30 minutes for Freddy and his friends to really do anything at all. Initially introduced as the villain of the picture, the film does make an effort to present them as threats. While this is admirable, they are never scary. The video games can sometimes be quite terrifying but this movie can’t even be described as creepy. Furthermore, the scenes depicting the animatronics in an evil manner quickly shift to sequences that turn them into a joke. The narrative never recovers from this tonal whiplash and the finale of the story is diminished considerably because of this. The filmmakers are clearly aware of these characters’ popularity and seem afraid to paint them as definitive villains. Once again this is an area where a decision has been made to cater to hardcore fans rather than the general audience.
Despite everything mentioned in this review, there is one element of the film that must be applauded. The team behind the animatronic designs, costumes and puppetry have wonderfully brought to life a visual concept that is far better than the movie that it exists in.
Five Nights at Freddy’s is a film that wastes its potential in almost every regard. With 2023 filled with a variety of incredible horror releases, this is a movie that is best avoided unless you are closely familiar with the video game that it is based on.