“Five Nights at Freddy’s” is the latest film to proclaim itself a scary movie but ends up approaching the genre with such trepidation that the result is a bland tale that is neither scary nor funny enough to at least make it an amusing take on the horror theme. The way Emma Tammi has directed this film to stay under the PG-13 frame, “Five Nights at Freddy’s” ends up being more like “110 Minutes of Tedium.”
The film – based on the extremely popular video game originally released in 2014 – deals with the idea of how creepy it would be if those mechanical characters you might find singing and dancing at a pizza joint were killer creatures with buzzsaws for teeth. The concept is solid, but the execution is flawed.
The fact those pizza mechanical characters are already creepy enough should have given the film a boost. But, instead of the same steady barrage of gore and violence at Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza such as the kind found in the video game, the script by Tammi, Scott Cawthon and Seth Cuddeback embraces elements of a family drama. There is more time discussing a custody battle than setting up a serious storyline for the killer creatures.
The down-on-his-luck Mike (Josh Hutcherson) has been given custody of his emotionally confused sister, Abby (Piper Rubio). Taking care of the child who spends her days drawing colorful pictures would be tough enough, but Mike is burdened by an incident from his past that haunts him whether he is awake or asleep. He tries to use his dreams to give him any clues to rectifying the tragedy.
Faced with the possibility of losing custody of Abby, Mike takes the only job available to him. He is hired to be the security guard for the rundown Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza. It is a job where security guards fail to last more than a few days. He quickly learns the creatures who made children laugh in the ‘80s are now capable of horrific attacks.
At least the creatures are supposed to be horrific. The decision to stick to the PG-13 rating results in numerous sequences that could have rivaled “Saw” looking like a tale from the Goosebumps book series. The film looks more like what would happen if a few Muppets got mad instead of making them the kind of characters who create nightmares.
The video game has the player trying to survive the terrors in the defunct restaurant. There is one segment that shows the potential for evil Freddy and the gang can cause. Sadly, that gives way to the sibling tale of woe.
It is amazing that three writers could compile a script that has so many problems. There is never a clear reference to when the events are unfolding but using the fact Freddy’s was popular in the ‘80s and has now fallen apart, the events must be happening at the start of the 21st Century. There is no reason given for such an ambiguous setting.
There is an attempt to wrap up the story with some reveals. The problem is each answer comes with more and bigger questions. That includes a massive plot point regarding the disappearance of a child that ends up being the driving force of the film.
“Five Nights at Freddy’s” ends with big reveals in a method that mimics the final scene of every episode of “Scooby-Doo.” Showing the person behind the horrors (even tame horrors) should be a shock but as with the mystery solving dog and his pals, the obvious is almost always the case.
The most interesting thing about the film is the way the film is being presented to the audience. “Five Nights at Freddy’s” is opening in theaters and launching on the NBC streaming service of Peacock on the same day. It will be interesting to see if this strategy works for a film that fails to provide any real scares because of the efforts to be PG-13.
Five Nights at Freddy’s
Cast: Josh Hutcherson, Piper Rubio, Elizabeth Lail, Matthew Lillard.
Director: Emma Tammi
Rated: PG-13 for bloody action, language, Violent content
Running time: 110 minutes.