‘Five Nights at Freddy’s’ Delivers Just Enough PG-13 Horror Fun (Review)

by | Oct 26, 2023


Even though the film leaves some things to be desired, there’s enough here to like and learn from going forward for this new film franchise.

Who would have thought that putting a horror spin on animatronics that remind you of the glory days of Chuck E. Cheese would create a video game franchise that would run for almost a decade and sell over 30 million copies? Certainly not I. Creating a nice niche in the ever-growing video game world, we finally get a film adaptation of Five Nights at Freddy’s, despite the video game franchise not even being around for a decade. Of course, given the big-screen treatment video games have gotten over the years, there is always a gamble when venturing into this territory. But with horror production studio (and horror experts, quite frankly) Blumhouse helping bring this video game adaptation to the big screen, Five Nights at Freddy’s delivers a satisfying film adaptation for both existing fans and newcomers to the franchise. Sure, it may be a little lighter on thrills than expected. But when given the spotlight, its animatronic characters and their antics are enough to invest audiences in this likely new film franchise. 

When Mike Schmidt (Josh Hutcherson) is having a difficult time holding down a job, a career counselor (Matthew Lillard) offers him a night-time position in security at Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza. When Schmidt accepts the job at the family entertainment center that has been out of business since the 80s, he begins to discover that the animatronic mascots at the pizzeria come to life at night. And as the nights pass, he discovers there’s more to the movements of these creepy robotic figures than meets the eye. 

The crux of Five Nights at Freddy’s is how much time is spent on the emotional weight the film tries to vest you in with Mike Schmidt and, eventually, with his younger sister, Abby (Piper Rubio). Hollywood has tried again and again to crack the code with the human characters in its films, and it has mostly been a failure. And while the film’s three screenwriters try to make headway in giving you human characters audiences can care about, it works better here than in most previous video game adaptations. This is a horror film that needs to spend less time on characters and more time on thrills. While this is not the fault of its main character, played by someone Hollywood has tried to make a star for years (Hutcherson), the film’s tie into Mike Schmidt’s backstory that later connects closely with Abby is time that could have been trimmed or better spent focusing on what the audience is here for: the animatronic mascots. 

When the film settles into place, every time we visit the pizzeria and things go bump in the night, the film is a hoot. Whether it’s a quick, blink-of-an-eye moment, a trap, or coming in to finish a human, the animatronic characters deliver thrills and mayhem that will have you anticipating (or wishing away) their next appearance on screen. One scene in particular, which will not be spoiled here, delivers arguably the best kill in any horror film this year. Sure, the film may be PG-13; but it’s right at the edge of that rating, and its more conservative use of blood that keeps it from earning that R-rating is clever and ensures people of younger ages can be terrified. The only unfortunate thing about these frights is there should have been more of them in the film, especially since it is almost two hours long.

Just like they did with the recent Halloween sequels, it makes sense that Universal Pictures decided to simultaneously release this in theaters and stream on Peacock Friday. And like all other franchise starters, there are things to learn here and build upon. You may not care about the story from the human side of things no matter how much they foist it on you, the viewer. But you can’t deny how much fun it is to watch these supernatural beings causing chaos in an indoor area that feels like it has unlimited space. Mileage will vary with Freddy’s, but it wins just enough tickets to take to the prize counter to buy investment into future installments. 



(out of five stars)