Video: Five Nights at Freddy's (2023)

Five Nights at Freddy’s is one of the worst films of 2023, on par with The Exorcist: Believer (making this a second horror dud in a row from Universal Pictures this year). Full Disclosure: I am not a fan of the Five Nights at Freddy's video games series; I’ve seen people play these games and despite not enjoying this film, there are a few things I can admit the film does well. The narrative is faithful to the video game franchise (meaning those who have played the game will likely admire it) and the production design leans on practical effects that make this pizzeria spring to life. Outside of that, this an extremely thin story that stretches itself out to almost two painstaking hours, and the character choices are bizarre, particularly to those of us not already familiar with the material. Both of the people I went with to this screening with are die-hard fans of the games and grew up playing them; they both enjoyed this so something tells me that if you are familiar with the world, you will be more prone to liking the movie more than I did.

While the film builds a fitting eerie atmosphere, many scenes feel like padding and filler to stretch this story out; throughout the film, Mike has multiple dream sequences that were never compelling and seemed like they could’ve been lifted from the film with almost no repercussions. Anytime he has a dream, I simply thought to myself, “Can we go back to the pizzeria?”

There is one scene where Mike asks police officer Vanessa, “Is there anything else you want to share since you seem to know so much about this place?” which is what I was wondering; she’s not a security guard assigned to Freddy’s; why is she spending all of this time at this pizzeria and how does she happen to know so much? It seems like an odd place to just stop and hang out.  The film later gives a hokey explanation, but the fact that Mike takes so long to question why she keeps stopping by just seems unnatural that they hang out together at this place.

Mike brings his young sister he longs to protect the day after a brutal robbery where the robbers completely trashed the place.  I get he may not have a babysitter, but if someone just broke into the place where I work, I would avoid at all costs bringing them to said dangerous place. Heck, I would be calling the boss to report it to see if I should still go in. Not Mike; he, unphased by the robbery, goes in that evening like it’s a normal work shift, taking it upon himself to clean up the place. Even Vanessa asks Mike, “Why would you bring Abby here if you know it’s not safe?” and I think Mike was an idiot for doing that.

We see these robbers (who are paid by the aunt to break in and cause havoc so Mike can lose his job) fall at the hands of the animatronics. There’s never a satisfying follow-up to that; no one reports these robbers missing; they die and we don’t even see their bodies again because…the animatronics ate them or melted their souls…who knows? These robbers broke the glass of all the pinball machines and towards the end of the film we see all these machines with the glass still intact; was that a production mistake or did Mike truly repair the glass to multiple pinball machines in a single night?

Ultimately, the narrative choices themselves bothered me and made me laugh periodically; the main positive compliment I can give the film is that the story was so bizarre and I was so bewildered by its choices I can’t say I was flat-out bored. Things happen and even though I think some of those things are laughably stupid, it was so dense and mindless that I was entertained by how outlandish some of those choices were. If you’re in the mood for horror, I recommend skipping Univeral Picture’s latest offerings and see if you can catch Saw X. If you’re a fan of these games and understand these characters more than a new audience member like myself some of these choices might not bother you as much so maybe you should check it out and give it a chance.

Final Verdict:An extremely thin story that stretches itself out to almost two painstaking hours; the character choices are bizarre, particularly to those of us not already familiar with the source material.