This video game horror flick needs more toppings on its pizza.
“Five Nights at Freddy’s” is something horror and video game aficionados are salvaging to see, and it has the potential to be campy entertainment, but it doesn’t take the kind of risks to, at least, reach that level. Sticking to its PG-13 rating, it should have taken a different script with a nostalgic feel and consistency.
Set in the late 90s or the early 2000s (it’s hard to say), Josh Hutcherson plays Mike, a troubled young man, who struggles to keep a job, while caring for his younger sister Abby (Piper Rubio). As advised by his councilor (Matthew Lillard), his only recourse is to become a security guard at a once-popular pizzeria from the 80s called “Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza,” which closed down when some kids went missing.
The owner of this family entertainment center hasn’t demolished it for personal reasons. Maybe it’s because the animatronics (the brown bear Freddy, the indigo rabbit Bonnie, the yellow chicken Chica, and the red fox Foxy) have been possessed by the missing children, and become evil monsters. At least, I think that’s what the video game is about. I’ve never played it.
Mike has been haunted by his past when his younger brother got abducted, and Abby may have contact with the ghost children. He’s even willing to take her to work to figure out his past. And he’s also given warnings from a mysterious cop named Vanessa (Elizabeth Lail) about not getting in too deep.
Meanwhile, their mean Aunt Jane (Mary Stuart Masterson) is willing take full custody of Abby by hiring punks to mess up the 80s joint. But they get their gruesome PG-13 rated comeuppance when the animatronics wake up, and raise some Hell.
How better would the aunt be at raising the girl? Would she raise her to be mean and snooty like her? That’s a good question, and another reason why this movie needs another go on the typewriter. It’s feels so arbitrary, considering what movies are into these days.
Freddy looks great with the face and body, but his special effects don’t leave up to the imagination. Maybe he should be asking M3gan out on a date. That is if this movie took place in 2023, which I’m glad it doesn’t. Because then the characters would be more spoiled and aggravating, considering today’s standards. And I have no idea how kids are getting punished these days.
There are moments in “Five Nights at Freddy’s” that entertained me, like how Mike, Abby, Vanessa, and the animatronics build a fort inside Freddy’s, and how the soundtrack adds Iggy Pop’s “Real Wild Child” and Elastica’s “Connection” in the mix. And I also liked Hutcherson’s performance, especially when his character struggles to overcome his tragic past. My all-time favorite movie from his (even more so than “The Hunger Games”) is “Zathura,” back when he was kid having fun in a game movie. That movie had more humor and heart than “Five Nights at Freddy’s” can provide.
It looks like a fun campy movie, because of some of the reasons I’ve mentioned, but it never really goes anywhere. It’s all ideas and less concepts. Maybe fans of the game will enjoy this movie or maybe they’ll dislike it. It’s debatable, especially by how word-of-mouth switches things around. I’ll have to find out for myself this week.
We some more quarters to play this game.
In Theaters and Streaming on Peacock
This article was written by me with full support of the SAG-AFTRA strike.