Director Emma Tammi has done the unexpected. She made a tasty meal out of pre-packaged pizza dough when most folks were expecting Chuck E. Cheese-level quality. Five Nights at Freddy’s is a movie better than anyone could expect from a point-and-click video game dependent on jumpscares, plushy animal robots, and a music box version of the “Toreador Song” from Carmen. But, by George, they did it. They made a family-friendly horror film out of Freddy’s.
Based on the video game franchise with a simple premise and a surprisingly layered backstory, the goal of Five Nights at Freddy’s is straightforward enough: stay alive. As a nightshift security guard, you have the unpleasant job of guarding Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzeria, a former family fun-time restaurant that has gone by the wayside thanks to a few unpleasant events caused by wayward animatronics. However, your task is not as easy as it sounds. To keep from decaying, the animatronics roam freely at night, and if they see any random folks, they just assume they are animatronics who escaped their fuzzy bodies and help them back into their fursuits…by smashing them into it. Guards are given the ability to lock the door or use the security cameras, but not enough power for both. In FNaF, players must manage their power, their time, and their anxiety
Now on the big screen, the tale has evolved again, incorporating new story elements along with important fragments of the original Freddy mythos.
Starring Josh Hutcherson, Piper Rubio, Elizabeth Lail, Matthew Lillard, and Mary Stuart Masterson, the adaptation is set somewhere between 199-after-cellphones-were-
Enter Mike (Hutcherson). Nice guy. Bad luck. Not big on smarts. He’s in desperate need of a job if he is to keep custody of his little sister Abby (Rubio), so he starts his new gig at Freddy’s. Soon, both him and Abby find themselves surrounded by a few very ornery animatronics who just won’t take no for an answer.
Though the film does contain the occasional jumpscare (it is Freddy’s, after all), the narrative opts to take its time to tell the story of Mike, Abby, and their fractured family instead of heading straight into the horror. It explores the depths of their pain and exactly why Mike is open to becoming a swing-shift security guard at a place where tetanus is crossbred with rejects from FurryCon.
The film requires both Hutcherson and Rubio to do a majority of the heavy lifting as they appear in almost every scene. But they do so skillfully thanks to terrific on-screen chemistry that sells the duo as suffering siblings recovering from familial trauma. This is largely in part to Tammi’s helming efforts. In her hands, she was able to inject family drama into the narrative while including the original backstory and animatronic-horror goofiness from the original video game. Not an easy feat, but she pulls it off, creating a gateway horror cinematic experience for Fangoria-loving parents looking to introduce their young ones to their favorite genre.
Five Night at Freddy’s is a horror outing the whole family could enjoy. Much like earlier PG-13 efforts M3gan, Five Nights won’t scratch the itch for folks looking for hard-hitting horror. But for a fun outing with the tweens that properly explores and adapts the video game franchise for the big screen, Five Nights at Freddy’s is a solid choice.
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