Friday, November 17, 2023

Five Nights at Freddy's (2023)

Streaming Service: Peacock
Movie Name/Year: Five Nights at Freddy's (2023)
Genre: Horror, Mystery, Thriller
Length: 1h 49min
Rating: PG-13
Production/Distribution: Universal Pictures, Blumhouse Productions, ScottGames, Peacock
Director: Emma Tammi
Writer: Scott Cawthon, Seth Cuddeback, Emma Tammi, Chris Lee Hill, Tyler MacIntyre
Actors: Josh Hutcherson, Piper Rubio, Elizabeth Lail, Matthew Lillard, Mary Stuart Masterson, Kat Connor Sterling, Grant Feely, Asher Colton Spence, David Huston Doty, Liam Hendrix, Jophielle Love
Blurb from IMDb: A troubled security guard begins working at Freddy Fazbear's Pizza. During his first night on the job, he realizes that the night shift won't be so easy to get through. Pretty soon he will unveil what actually happened at Freddy's.

Selina’s Point of View:
It’s great to be back to reviews, and we obviously wanted to start with a film we’ve been looking forward to for a long time. The frustration of not being able to talk about Five Nights at Freddy’s when it was finally set to come out had us practically spitting. If the production companies hadn’t been so damn greedy…
But I digress.
I didn’t watch Five Nights at Freddy’s alone. A bunch of us got together and watched it on discord the night it came out on Peacock. It was our first discord movie night and, I have to say, doing it for this film was a good idea. There are so many little meme-able moments woven throughout. Watching it with friends and getting to talk about those moments as they occur, then theorizing after the film is done, heightened the whole experience for me.
No doubt you’ve seen the rotten tomatoes scores. Critics had a field day shitting all over it (30%), while fans brought the audience score all the way up to 87%. In this case, I see where critics are coming from, but as a fan of the games, I also see where the audience is coming from. I’m inclined to lean more toward the 87 than the 30.
Let me start with what I agree with the critics on.
The tone was a little… odd. Huge sections of Five Nights at Freddy’s are dedicated to the main character, Mike, and his guilt over the loss of his little brother. Those scenes are completely serious and leave little room for levity. Then there are other scenes where people are getting attacked by a cupcake or having fort-time with the animatronics.
I love a good horror comedy. So, my issue is not that there were moments of humor and light mixed in with scares, it’s that the tone was so drastically different between those scenes that they didn’t even feel like they were part of the same film. Most of those horror moments weren’t scary. I think there were a few to many cuts made. It all might have made more sense with the added scenes.
I have gotten my hands on some of the script that was cut after they opted to make the movie PG-13. When they were going for an R-rated, there were some seriously scary and brutal scenes written in that script. I really believe this is one flick that would have benefited from that R-rating.

Now that we have the bad out of the way, let’s talk about all the good.
Any fan of video games knows that the companies rarely get it right when they create an adaptation. We all wince when we first see the announcements. It’s as if the companies don’t bother to research the games. Instead, they seem to create movies based on a list of character names and plot guessing. That is not an issue here.
Scott Cawthon (Freddy & Friends: On Tour, Josh the Octoling Shorts, Five Nights at Freddy's: Security Breach) is the creator of Five Nights at Freddy’s. He not only had a hand in writing this adaptation, but he also had control over who directed it and the people tapped to play the characters. He shied away from solely using CGI, using live action options when he could. He had our favorite murderous animatronics created by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop – which is a choice you have to respect. It gave them an uncanny valley feel when they moved, as if you could see the people trapped inside, but it didn’t make them too human either.
Because Cawthon was involved throughout every part of the film, Five Nights at Freddy’s sticks extremely close to the actual lore of the games (and books) from a time when he was in control of them.
Then there’s the acting, which you will find no fault in.
Josh Hutcherson (Epic, Ultraman, The Hunger Games) leaves it all on camera whenever he’s working. He doesn’t have a phone-it-in mode. Regardless of the part he always gives it his all, and that’s very apparent here. Matthew Lillard (The Bridge, Scream, SLC Punk!)  was also a fantastic choice for Steve Raglan. I have a lot of reasons for this belief, but they stray into spoiler territory, so I’m not going to put them here. I will say that most of the meme-able content comes from him.
Piper Rubio (Holly & Ivy, Pretzel and the Puppies, Unstable) was believable in her part as well. Children actors in horror films have it rough, because they aren’t given the whole story of what they’re acting in. Rubio manages to hide that fact from the audience, which worked out well.
When it comes down to it, fans of Five Nights at Freddy’s are going to enjoy the film. It’s a good first step that sets up the second to be even better.

Cat’s Point of View:
Fans of the Five Nights at Freddy’s (FNAF) game series have been waiting for the movie adaptation for years now. There was a rollercoaster of anticipation and frustration as the will-they or won’t-they of the development process moved along like a herd of turtles. While we were waiting, we got a taste of murderous animatronic insanity with Willy's Wonderland (2021). Fans of FNAF knew it was derivative, but it gave us a splatter-fest and crazy chaos to tide us over a little while – not that it was planned that way or anything. That was just the way it worked out. It whet our appetites while we still hungered for ‘the real thing.’
Now that the official Five Nights at Freddy’s has hit big and small screens alike, fans and audiences new to the stories have rushed to watch our hopes realized… all the while crossing our fingers that it wouldn’t disappoint.
I loved it. I also watched Five Nights at Freddy’s with my daughter, and it was fun to watch her reactions to the movie. She just happened to have the remote while we were watching via streaming, and she actually paused the film in a couple places so she could hop out of her chair and bounce around with glee at little moments and Easter Eggs that excited her. You see, she has been a monumental fan of FNAF for years now. She watched so many play-throughs of the games and has devoured all the game theories and lore content available online. FNAF was her introduction into horror. Most of my knowledge of this game series, its characters, and associated concepts came from her excited explanations before I ever even played the nerve-jangling games, myself. (I give serious props to VR players. I noped out within minutes.)
The point I’m getting around to is that we enjoyed the experience together and have great respect for the final product that arrived amidst a time of turmoil in the film industry. Five Nights at Freddy’s has the stamp of approval of my resident superfan.

Was it perfect? Not exactly. This movie did, however, treat the lore well and even gave a nod to the online gamer streamers that helped launch FNAF into the viral hit the games have been. The plot-twist in Five Nights at Freddy’s was also very satisfactory and caught me off-guard in a way that caused me to gasp and then face-palm as my mind hurriedly put the clues together in retrospect.
The cast was amazing. Josh Hutcherson was a great pick for the brother in a desperate enough situation to take the overnight security job. I have enjoyed watching his cinematic journey ever since he brought me to tears in Bridge to Terabithia (2007). I was also seriously giddy that Matthew Lillard was also involved in Five Nights at Freddy’s. It’s been a while since I’ve seen him in a horror flick. If anyone was going to take the FNAF’s mastermind and creator Scott Cawthon’s place as “phone guy,” Lillard was perfect. Young Piper Rubio also impressed me with her performance.
The only issue I had with Five Nights at Freddy’s was that the movie didn’t quite capture the same level of dread and suspense that the games are well known for. Understandably, for cinematic purposes it couldn’t be exactly like the gameplay, but that element was slightly lacking. I know that director Emma Tammi (The Wind, The Left Right Game, Into the Dark) is capable of that very feeling because her atmospheric and suspenseful movie The Wind (2018) was steeped in that eerie emotion. Perhaps future installments in this burgeoning franchise might take that step to round out the experience.
I wasn’t even mad that the production team took a PG-13 route with minimal gore. That’s not really what this series has been about at its core. It’s a lot of psychological horror and jump-scares. Audiences know that bloody and horribly gruesome things have happened, but it didn’t need to be front and center on-screen for the movie to be effective. The FNAF concept would stand up to a more graphic treatment, but for this first foray into this realm of haunted children’s attractions, this was satisfactory.
Five Nights at Freddy’s is a film I have recommended to friends already and we will likely be watching it again in the future. In the meantime, we will anticipate and cross our fingers that the studio and production team grant our wish for sequels exploring some of the other Five Nights at Freddy’s lore and characters.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score –30%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 87%
Metascore – 33%
Metacritic User Score – 8.0
IMDB Score –5.5/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating 3.5/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating 4.5/5
Movie Trailer:

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