Five Nights at Freddy’s is a horror film video game adaptation directed by Emma Tammi, and it stars Josh Hutcherson, Elizabeth Lail, and Piper Rubio. The trailer and other pre-release marketing sell the film as the story about a security guard who fights animatronics that are possessed by ghost children. How exactly the animatronics come to be possessed by ghost children and other details delve into spoiler territory, but suffice it to say that the details are opaque and unsatisfying.
Even though the film markets itself as a ridiculous but fun horror romp, most of the film occupies itself with Hutcherson’s character, Mike, dealing with a childhood trauma. Mike must care for his young sister, but he also believes that he can dream about his childhood trauma enough so that he can affect its outcome. The first half of the film awkwardly balances taking Mike’s efforts seriously and setting up animatronic carnage.
When Five Nights at Freddy’s finally gets around to doing horror movie things, the results are largely unsatisfying. There are precious few “cool kills” for the horror film fans looking for that kind of thing, and if you’ve seen the trailer, then you’ve seen the extent of the film’s clever creature design.
If the character work that occupies the first half of Five Nights at Freddy’s had paid off in the second half or been buoyed by clever writing or emotionally resonant acting, then the film could have pulled off an impressive balancing act. But Five Nights at Freddy’s isn’t nearly that clever or entertaining.
In contrast, Willy’s Wonderland (2021) starring Nicolas Cage knows exactly what kind of movie it is and why people would want to see it. The film gets straight to Nicolas Cage fighting animatronics, and for some reason the animatronics bleed. By no means is Willy’s Wonderland a good movie in any conventional sense, but it is a self-aware film – one that knows what its audience might want. Not even that can be said of Five Nights at Freddy’s.