Five Nights at Freddy’s
With the success of The Last of Us and Super Mario Bros, the picture was set that the screen industry had finally cracked the art of adapting video games. But here comes Five Nights at Freddy’s, ready to set the perception over five years back.
The titular horror game became a phenomenon thanks to YouTubers who broadcast their playing experience, frightened by creepy animatronic characters who were haunting the precinct that the night-time employee, controlled by the gamer, was serving to protect. It was a tall task to translate the surprises of a point-and-click adventure game into a hands-free viewing experience, so it’s not the worst thing in the world for Emma Tammi’s feature film to focus on what film can do in spades – character development.
As with the game, the movie centres on a character named Mike Schmidt (Josh Hutcherson, seldom seen since his Hunger Games days), who accepts the assignment to work as night security for a sizable pizza parlour named Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza, which has a multitude of hidden secrets and murderous robots.
So much (arguably too much) time of the film is spent unravelling the layers of Mike’s trauma from losing his brother, which has resulted in several key life choices: the decision to take total care of his 10-year-old sister Abby (Piper Rubio), the decision to manage the awful memories through strong medication, and the decision to take this shifty job, following a violent outburst that sees him fired from his previous gig.
It is one of the rare times a horror film makes the audience feel discouraged by how much time is spent on character development, exhibiting the cheapest use of trauma to ground a character’s motivation among the many films using the same storytelling tool. Here, the prolonged exploitation of Mike’s domesticity makes us almost forget about Freddy Fazbear and the legendary bunch of antagonists that the movie promises to showcase after a Saw-esque opening sequence. Worse, the film pulls its punches with every single kill, unsatisfactorily cutting at the precise moment an emotional response should have been provoked. It’s the film’s greatest failure as a horror, being too afraid to satisfy the morbid curiosity that captured so many YouTube fans.
For all the marketing and knowledge of what makes FnaF such a beloved franchise, it’s an immense disappointment to see its iconography obscured by dull human drama and dreadful action.
Five Nights at Freddy’s is released nationwide on 25th October 2023.
Watch the trailer for Five Nights at Freddy’s here: