Review: 'Five Nights at Freddy's' (the movie, not the game)
Do you like scary movies?
I do. A downside of reviewing movies for a furry site is that you don't get to review horror very much, and when you do, it kind of feels like you're stretching more than a little (not pseudo-apologizing for this one, though, it's awesome). What you end up reviewing mostly is movies whose intended audience is for kids, and though the primary audience of Flayrah seems to be adults, its sometimes important to acknowledge that there are limits to what can and can't be done in a lot of more mainstream productions featuring talking animals.
Which makes it even wierder to finally get to a wide-release horror movie featuring a bunch of characters the furry fandom has embraced (if e621 is any indication), and my most positive response is, "yes, but the kids'll love it!"
Five Night's At Freddy's is a (very soft) PG-13 horror movie, directed by Emma Tammi, and is an adaptation of the 2014 horror video game of the same name, created by Scott Cawthon, who is a credited writer on this movie. The premise features an abandoned "dinner and a puppet show" pizzeria and arcade haunted by ghosts who possess the old animatronic puppet attractions. Though given a theatrical release, it's also available on the Peacock streaming service.
The movie follows protagonist Mike (Josh Hutcherson), who is so haunted by memory of his younger brother's unsolved abduction, he's basically unhireable. However, he needs a job badly, as he is the guardian of his much younger sister, Abby (Piper Rubio), and his aunt (Mary Stuart Masterson) is trying to take her away from him. So, he takes a job as a night security guard at an old abandoned pizzeria, Freddy Fazbear's, which used to be very popular with children but was shut down after kids started going missing. Mike's career counselor is both very adamant he take the job, and played by PG-13 horror veteran Matthew Lillard, so it doesn't take much familiarity with the genre to realize he'll probably have a bigger role later in the movie.
The dreams Mike has of his younger brother's abduction begin to be interrupted by encounters with five children he's never seen before. Meanwhile, in the pizzeria, the animatronics of the old stage show keep activating on their own, and they just love singing The Romantics "Talking In Your Sleep". Mike and especially Abby (who for plot related reasons is forced to come along with Mike) put two and two together disarmingly quickly, helped along by Vanessa (Elizabeth Lail), a local police officer who is just a little too helpful. Over the course of five nights (I counted!), Mike learns the secrets of Freddy Fazbear's.
Of course, a large portion of the audience already know the secrets of Freddy Fazbear's, because this is a pretty faithful adaptation. But it's a pretty faithful adaptation of the original game, where basically the point was "animatronics sure are creepy" and also "JUMP SCARE!". Motivation is kind of lousy for some of the supporting characters. The aunt character is presented as well off, but also mostly after Abby's welfare checks, which aren't really helping Mike out. Then there's Elizabeth Lail as Vanessa, which is not a great performance, but not helped by the fact that I have no idea why she's doing what she's doing. There's a big revelation about her character near the end which entirely does not explain anything.
All this could be forgiven if the movie was somewhat scary, but it's just not. I'm not actually a gorehound, even if I like horror movies, but there's one memorable death in the entire movie, and it was kind of stupid looking. With most kills not just offscreen, but edited in such a way that I wasn't even sure the character had been killed at all. Circling back to the aunt, I could excuse her odd character motivations, because she's obviously just a villain being set up for an interesting death, except it never comes. The movie seems to be afraid of jump scares, as well. I know they've gotten a bad reputation, but there are good jump scares and there are bad jump scares. It's an adaptation of Five Night's at Freddy's— there should be jump scares! But beyond one running bit involving a clown doll which is more played for laughs, there's not even that.
The four main animatronic characters, Freddie the bear, Bonnie the rabbit, Chica the chick (with her friend Mr. Cupcake) and Foxy the fox pirate are well done special effects. They are actual animatronic suits, with the exception of Foxy, who is purely animatronic thanks to his skinnier build. Though, I can't resist pointing out that it turns out animatronic suits are an effective way of simulating characters that are, indeed, animatronic suits! This kind of craftmanship is very much appreciated. Now, if only they'd be allowed to actually be scary.
But, as I said up top, it's actually aiming at fans of the video games, and a lot of those fans are kids. It's kind of become one of my go-to phrases, but this is another "baby's first" movie, this time being horror. It feels like the makers of the film knew this, and it does feel like a child, with less experience in the genre, who still finds the idea of watching a scary movie, itself, scary, will probably get something out of this. So, a good movie to watch with a budding horror movie fan, even if an adult might have to grin and bear with it.