Direction: Emma Tammi
Starring: Josh Hutcherson, Elizabeth Lail, Piper Rubio, Mary Stuart Masterson and Matthew Lillard
Length: 1 hour 54 minutes
Premiere: October. 27th 2023
Movie adaptations of videogames have a reputation of not living up to its source material, and failing flat, instead of succeeding, and the bigger the franchise, the potential failure grows ever larger. The Five Nights at Freddy’s movie is based on the famous and memorable point – and – click horror game made by Scott Cawthon that a lot of fans have grown to love ever since the release of the first FNAF game all the way back in 2014. The franchise has since then spanned 9 games with 4 spin-offs, and now director Emma Tammi takes on the responsibility of bringing the game franchise on to the big cinema screens. It is surely an ambiguous movie that has to live up to its expectations from its loyal fanbase, or else, maybe it should have stayed as a draft in an old dusty notebook and kept locked inside a drawer.
In this movie we meet Mike Schmidt (Josh Hutcherson), an insomniac who lives alone with his younger little sister Abby Schmidt (Piper Rubio) and struggles to make the ends meet financially while also being a good caretaker for her. Abby is a reserved and quiet child who does not seem to care too much about making friends or play with the other children at her school. Instead, she enjoys spending her time alone while drawing and talking to her imaginary friends. Her behavior makes Mike’s old, snarky and grumpy aunt Jane (Mary Stuart Masterson) concerned about Abby’s wellbeing and Mike’s caretaker abilities, and therefore wants Abby taken away from him. The fear of losing Abby becomes Mike’s new motivation for taking on the security job that Steve Ragland, the career counselor (Matthew Lillard) offers him at the old, haunted pizza place. Mike gets the job and meets Vanessa (Elizabeth Lail), a local police officer that informs him that dangerous ghost possessing animatronics keep lurking around every corner at night at the pizza place, which as a result makes the security guards not last for a very long time. Despite Mike not being convinced of Vanessa’s ghost stories, he soon comes to realize that there is more to them that he initially thought.
Although I haven’t played any of the games myself, but still knowing some bits and pieces of the lore, I would say that you do not really need to have played any of the games or know much about the lore before you watch the movie. However, when it comes to the story, I feel like the plot is pretty predictable after watching the footage from the movie trailer, which then makes the movie not as exciting as I had hoped for.
On the other hand, what I do like and appreciate about this movie must be its visuals and atmosphere! The set design of the old pizzeria looks utterly identical to the videogames, and are both dark and creepy, but at the same time has a nice contrast of colors and life when the neon lights from all the different blinking signs and arcane games are turned on. The movie manages to recreate an immersive feeling of the original horror game, and it will certainly make you feel very nostalgic and OLD!
The costumes for the animatronic characters are created by no other than the Jim Henson’s Creature shop, the creators behind the puppets from Sesame Street, the dark crystals: age of resistance, and earth to Ned, just to mention a few shows! I also really like that the director (Emma Tammi) and lead designer for the movie (Robert Bennett) decided to go for real costumes for the animatronics, instead of going with the typical CGI effects, which at times can make characters look a bit weird and cheap. That artistic decision makes the robots feel way more real and almost like they have existed for a long, long time. And let’s be honest – real practical effects are the way to go!
The downsides of the movie must be that it is a little bit too mild and child friendly for my liking. When it comes to the horror-meter, the movie has its creepy scenes, but I wouldn’t say that this is a very scary horror movie overall. I guess I had expected it to be much more violent, and I feel like they definitely could have been a bit more generous with the use of fake blood splattered on the walls. Give me more Saw-like nightmare fuel is what I am saying!
All in all, I would say that this is a fun “popcorn movie” that you don’t need to take too seriously if you just want to watch something entertaining together with your friends, or just get a little scared if you are one of the more easier frightened types ;)