Five Nights at Freddy’s (2023)

Director Emma Tammi and Universal’s “Five Nights at Freddy’s” is the product of too little, too late, as even the original article that set the template for a trend, feels outdated and old hat by now. Scott Cawthon’s horror video game was, at one time, everywhere on youtube, and in store shelves. Now that we’ve finally gotten the feature adaptation fans were clamoring for, Universal reveals an obvious fear in showing the real teeth of the video game.

In the year 2000, a desperate young man takes a job at an infamous, long-abandoned pizzeria with a dark past, bringing his little sister along. As they uncover the restless spirits and vengeful animatronics within, they must confront their own haunting memories. With the help of an enigmatic police officer, they battle to save their souls and unravel the sinister secrets lurking at Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza.

Everything about “Five Nights at Freddy’s” is painfully watered down and toned down in an obvious effort to bring in more curious audiences. The generation that played “FnaF” has moved on to “Fortnite” so the movie has the deck stacked against it from the first minute. All the terror, stark violence, history of grisly murder, and inherent mystery is replaced with over explaining, off screen frights, and so much familial drama. Quite frankly I was bored out of my skull for most of the film, and whenever the writers gave us the luxury of going back in to Freddy Fazbear’s restaurant, the animatronic villains are transformed in to vengeful anti-heroes whose entire motive is never quite clarified for us.

There are a lot of themes and sub-plots that just are left dangling for the audience from Abby’s entire mental state, the custody trouble; there’s even this elaborate plot involving Mike’s manipulative aunt and her attempt to sabotage his job at the restaurant as a way to adopt his little sister that is suddenly dropped mid-way. So much time is spent on Mike’s coming to grips with raising his sister, and grappling with the mysterious kidnapping of his little brother, that all suspense and mounting tension is pushed far in to the background for a good first half of the movie.

In spite of the great puppet work, callbacks to the game, and the faithful character designs, so much of it is lost in filler, dull themes about PTSD and trauma, and a downright lackluster script. With a braver studio, “Five Night’s at Freddy’s could have been the horror movie of the year.

Now in Limited Release and Streaming on Peacock.