Review by Adam Donato
Blumhouse is a pillar of modern blockbuster horror movies — especially when it comes to their franchises. Five Nights at Freddy’s has been floating around for years before it finally got its opportunity. It’s an interesting horror demographic, as it appears targeted at older kids. YouTube certainly helped popularize the franchise and has its DNA all over this new movie. Starring Josh Hutcherson and Matthew Lillard, this video game adaptation is looking to appeal to existing fans, while also remaining hip to casual horror fans. With a fairly unknown director in Emma Tammi, does Jason Blum have his next hit horror franchise in Five Nights at Freddy’s?
The press screening was packed to the brim with fans of the game. People were wearing merchandise, and it was surprising to see how many children were present. Without spoiling anything, there were several moments in the movie that had the audience erupt with joy. From an outsider's perspective, it was very hard to see the appeal. The movie is dogwater. The story totally misunderstands what seems to be the appeal of the franchise. What should be a cheesy horror romp is filled with child displacement and never-ending trauma. It’s encouraging that the story attempts to have characters with emotional depth, but we’re talking about the evil Chuck E. Cheese parody. With a runtime of 110 minutes, there’s plenty here that could’ve been cut. It’s a shame, too, because two years ago there was a very similar movie in Willy’s Wonderland. That movie understood the B-movie assignment and accomplished so much more than Five Nights at Freddy’s -- and in just under 90 minutes.
What’s most disappointing about this movie turning out to be a dud is that the effects were quite good. The Jim Henson company worked on the animatronics for this film, and it’s easily the crowning achievement of this feature. This aspect feels like the hardest part about realizing this concept, so for that goal to be accomplished and for the surrounding elements to be so poor, it feels like a wasted opportunity. Still, the practical effects are a feather in its cap.
The characters were obvious and weird. Josh Hutcherson is unlikable as this down bad security guard who just wants to take care of his daughter. This role is not a welcomed return for the once-frequent child star, as he just has not developed into a compelling lead. Matthew Lillard is a welcomed return, though, but his character is given such little screen time. Elizabeth Lail, star of Countdown, is the most out of place character here. She acts as the love interest and voice of reason, but her inclusion is so awkward and forced. There’s also a weird subplot where the aunt is trying to steal custody of Hutcherson’s little sister. Cut it. Cut it all.
Hardcore fans of the franchise may be satisfied with just seeing their favorite characters represented so well on the big screen, but everything with humans is a snooze fest. It was a baffling direction to take this movie in with all the lost child drama. A horror concept that is so inherently childish should be more fun/scary and less depressing. Hopefully, the day and date release on Peacock will stymie the box office enough to prevent a continuation of this garbage. Rest in pieces.
Five Nights at Freddy's hits theaters and Peacock on October 30.