Did "Five Night's At Freddy's" Live up to Expectations?
On October 27th, 2023, after 8 years of development hell and at least more than 2 rejected scripts, nerds across the world rejoiced as one of the most anticipated movies of the decade (maybe the century?) was finally released in theaters (and on Peacock). This film was called Five Nights at Freddy's, and it has proven to be extraordinarily polarizing, even by 2020's standards. Did this movie live up to the hype?
Well, in short, no, at least not in my opinion. Directed by Emma Tammi, this film's plot, which series creator Scott Cawthon co-wrote, was decent, but it didn't feel like something that should have taken 8 years to make. Here's why, and there's going to be spoilers here.
I didn't expect this film to get into the deepest intricacies of the game's extraordinarily complicated lore. But what lore it does provide doesn't make a lot of sense. The basic plot is about what I expected: an unaware security guard named Mike (Josh Hutcherson) at Freddy Fazbear's animatronic pizzeria/arcade finds himself in the middle of a war between restless spirits possessing robots and their murderer. However, what I didn't expect from the story was Mike's personal family drama. I felt that the subplot focusing on Mike's custody dispute over his sister, Abby (Piper Rubio), with his aunt was lacking; its attempt at establishing exposition and depth for the characters was kind of a distraction at best and plain boring at worst.
The same applies to how they handled the Afton family; in the games the film's based on, antagonist William Afton (Matthew Lillard) is the owner of Freddy Fazbear's Pizza and designed the animatronics we see. William's part in the haunting of Freddy's is hinted at very little in the film, other than the fact that his alter-ego Steve Raglan wears a purple tie, which is a hint that can only really be picked up through the games. Other than that, his character is almost entirely unexplained. He has no established motivation whatsoever; just like the games, the story behind these characters has to be mostly assumed from very few, convoluted clues.
When it comes to those killer robots, they weren't handled very well. The opening scene was probably their scariest and most entertaining moment; seeing Foxy chase after the previous night guard, humming all the while, was a great way to set up the ferocity of these tortured and restless animatronics. This great opening is slowly diluted throughout the film; the next time they attack, against the aunt's goons, the vibes are similar but don't really match the opening scene. After this part, their potential is just squandered altogether; we see them playing with our protagonist and building a fort with Abby. This could be interpreted as a heartbreaking reveal of the animatronics' childlike nature, but the way the film handles it, it feels more like comic relief.
Despite all of these flaws, there were positive aspects to the film, for sure. That opening scene is great, encapsulating the thrill that the rest of the film should have had, and so are many of the hilarious cameos throughout the film. I also loved the early-ish sequence of the aunt's goons facing down the wanton violence of Freddy's inhabitants. However, I felt that most of the best moments were from references that only fans of the games could understand. That can make for funny writing, sure, but it's hard to rely on references to write a good film.
All in all, while Five Nights at Freddy's had the tools to make a great film adaptation of the game, it didn't live up to the hype. That doesn't mean it wasn't entertaining, but I couldn't help but be disappointed with the lack of substance. Despite the flaws, I still want a sequel; having it take place before the first film (like the original Five Nights at Freddy's 2 did) would not only address plot holes but could even be a rare case of a sequel being better than the original.