FIVE NIGHTS AT FREDDY'S | ©2023 Universal Pictures

FIVE NIGHTS AT FREDDY’S | ©2023 Universal Pictures

Rating: PG-13
Stars: Josh Hutcherson, Elizabeth Lail, Piper Rubio, Mary Stuart Masterson, Matthew Lillard
Writers: Scott Cawthon and Seth Cuddeback & Emma Tammi, screen story by Scott Cawthon and Chris Lee Hill & Tyler MacIntyre based on the video game FIVE NIGHTS AT FREDDY’S by Scott Cawthon
Director: Emma Tammi
Distributor: Universal Pictures/Peacock
Release Date: October 27, 2023 (theatrical and Peacock streaming)

FIVE NIGHTS AT FREDDY’S is adapted from the horror videogame of the same name. There is not a drawback in itself. There are readily identifiable good scary movies adapted from videogames (see the original RESIDENT EVIL, for starters).

The script for FIVE NIGHTS AT FREDDY’S is by original game designer Scott Cawthon, and the film’s director Emma Tammi, who collaborated directly with screenwriter Seth Cuddeback, from a screen story by Cawthon and Chriss Lee Hill & Tyler MacIntyre.

Both the game and the movie focus on security guard Mike Schmidt (played in the film by Josh Hutcherson), who has the night shift at Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza Place. Freddy’s has huge robotic characters, like giant stuffed animals, that come to life when the place is closed. They interact poorly (to put it mildly) with guests.

The movie gives us Mike’s current situation. He is the legal guardian of his little sister Abby (Piper Rubio). Abby lives mostly in her own world, drawing with crayons and conversing with imaginary friends.

Meanwhile, Mike keeps dreaming of the abduction of his younger brother Garrett, who was kidnapped on a family vacation.

Needing a job to retain custody of Abby and keep her out of the clutches of their unpleasant aunt (Mary Stuart Masterson), Mike takes on the watchman gig. In the movie, Freddy’s has been closed since the ‘80s. We know from the prologue that the place is dangerous, though exactly what’s going on here is doled out in small bursts of discovery.

We certainly understand why Mike keeps the job, and the relationship between the siblings is sweet. This is helped by an excellent performance by the young Rubio, who does both sullen distance and radiant joy with conviction.

However, the storytelling in FIVE NIGHTS AT FREDDY’S feels at once over-complicated and not entirely satisfying. The melding of technology and supernatural can work just fine (look no further back than DEAR DAVID, released a few weeks ago). Here, though, the explanation leaves much to be desired, and too much relies on coincidence. Without blowing the ending, several huge questions remain unaddressed.

Hutcherson plays Mike’s weary despair and confusion well. The robots are never exactly terrifying, but they are unnerving. Director Tammi and the practical effects team find smart ways to bring expression to their fake-fur-covered faces.

Major bloodshed is implied, but barely shown, except for some wounds. This is a film that comes by its PG-13 rating honestly. It’s hard to tell if more graphic violence would have added or detracted from FIVE NIGHTS AT FREDDY’S overall effect. As it is, the movie seems best suited for those who prefer their scares within boundaries, and aren’t too concerned with plot logic.

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