Review: ‘Five Nights at Freddy’s,’ starring Josh Hutcherson, Elizabeth Lail, Piper Rubio, Mary Stuart Masterson and Matthew Lillard

October 26, 2023

by Carla Hay

Foxy, Chica, Freddy Fazbear and Bonnie in “Five Nights at Freddy’s” (Photo by Patti Perret/Universal Pictures)

“Five Nights at Freddy’s”

Directed by Emma Tammi

Culture Representation: Taking place in an unnamed U.S. city, the horror film “Five Nights at Freddy’s” (based on the video game series) features a predominantly white cast of characters (with a few African Americans) representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: A down-on-his-luck man, who is in a custody battle with his aunt over his underage sister, takes a job as a security guard at an abandoned pizza place that has some sinister animatronic robots. 

Culture Audience: “Five Nights at Freddy’s” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of the video game series, but it’s another movie in a long list of movies based on video games that fail to be inventive or interesting.

Josh Hutcherson and Piper Rubio in “Five Nights at Freddy’s” (Photo by Patti Perret/Universal Pictures)

“Five Nights at Freddy’s” is a horror movie that’s nearly two hours of boredom, odd pacing and weak jokes. The shallow animatronic robots in this dreadful dud have more personality than most of the human characters. “Five Nights at Freddy’s” is based on a popular video game series of the same name, but the video games offer much more entertainment than this terrible and disappointing movie adaptation.

Directed by Emma Tammi, “Five Nights at Freddy’s” (which takes place in an unnamed U.S. city) has some occasionally eerie scenes, but nothing is truly terrifying in this movie, which is really just about a showdown with animatronic robots that look like human-sized stuffed animals. The movie builds up suspense then grinds it to a halt with dull scenes that go nowhere, and then repeats this pattern until there’s no hope that the movie will get any better. All of the characters speak and act unrealistically. Tammi co-wrote the terrible “Five Nights at Freddy’s” screenplay with Scott Cawthon (who created the “Five Nights at Freddy’s” video games) and Seth Cuddeback.

In the movie “Five Nights at Freddy’s,” Mike Schmidt (played by Josh Hutcherson) is a man in his 30s who has custody of his 10-year-old orphaned sister Abby (played by Piper Rubio), who has a tense relationship with him because Abby would rather draw pictures than talk to Mike. In the beginning of “Five Nights at Freddy’s,” Mike is financially broke and has been recently fired from his job, which is something that has happened to him many times in his erratic employment history. Mike is in danger of losing custody of Abby to his mean-spirited aunt Jane (played by Mary Stuart Masterson), who (according to Mike) doesn’t really care about Abby but only wants the government payments that Jane would get for having custody of this orphaned child.

Mike meets with a callous career counselor named Steve Ragland (played by Matthew Lillard) at an employment agency. Steve tells Mike about a less-than-ideal job offer: being a low-paid, night security guard at the abandoned and run-down Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza Place, which used to be a popular family-oriented restaurant in the 1980s. Steve explains to Mike that the owner of this dilapidated pizzeria has a hard time letting go of the building and refuses to demolish it or renovate it. Mike is wary of taking this job, but he changes his mind and accepts the offer because he’s desperate for money. When Mike is at work, Abby is looked after by a babysitter named Max (played by Kat Conner Sterling), who hasn’t been paid by Mike in a while.

It should come as no surprise that Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza Place mascot robots (which have names like Freddy Fazbear, Foxy, Chica, and Bonnie) come to life and cause terror. That’s in between Mike falling asleep on the job and having guilty nightmares about the time when he was 12 years old and his younger brother Garrett was kidnapped during a family camping trip while Mike was supposed to be looking after Garrett. The kidnapper and Garrett were never found.

Five children who disappeared from Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza Place (the reason why the business closed) appear to Mike in these dreams. These kids don’t have names in the movie, and are portrayed by Grant Feely, Asher Colton Spence, David Huston Doty, Liam Hendrix and Jophielle Love. Only one of these children (played by Feely) actually talks to Mike. The scenes with the kids staring at Mike and sometime moving in unison are creepy but not very scary.

Mike’s nightmares look like they could be an intriguing clues to a mystery, but they end up being mostly time-wasting scenes that don’t go anywhere. When Mike gets wounded in these nightmares (such when he falls down or when one of the kids slashes him with a hook), Mike wakes up with the same wounds. In these dream sequences, Wyatt Parker has the role of 12-year-old Mike, Lucas Grant has the role of Garrett, and Jessica Blackmore and Garrett Hines have the roles of Mike’s unnamed parents.

When Mike and Abby find out that these robots have a life of their own, their human reactions are ludicrous. Abby discovers these robots when she accompanies Mike to Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza Place, after babysitter Max stops returning Mike’s phone calls, and he can’t find another babysitter in time. Mike befriends a police officer named Vanessa (played by Elizabeth Lail), who apparently has nothing better to do but show up alone and hang out with Mike at this desolate pizzeria. It all goes downhill from there and makes this stinker of a movie a complete waste of time for anyone expecting an entertaining horror flick.

Universal Pictures will release “Five Nights at Freddy’s” in U.S. cinemas on October 27, 2023, the same date that the movie will premiere on Peacock.

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