Film Critic Corey Douglas reviews Five Nights at Freddy’s, finding it to be a poorly written and puzzlingly lacking in animatronic horror

Written by cdouglas_15

The Five Nights at Freddy’s movie (2023) was arguably one of the most anticipated game-to-movie adaptations within the past few years, and so with the recent critical and box office successes of movies and TV shows like The Super Mario Bros. Movie and The Last of Us, the FNAF movie certainly has competition.

With several rewrites and pushed back production dates, it was a wonder this film ever saw the light of day. Eventually the game’s original creator, Scott Cawthon, became one of the film’s main writers- this is where the film largely suffers. It is true that praise must be given to Cawthon’s ingenuity in creating the unsettling and unique franchise of FNAF, the games themselves still holding up today as genuinely scary experiences. However, translating the simple yet complex lore of the FNAF games into a barely two hour film results in one of the most terrifying outcome in filmmaking: mediocrity.

…a barely two hour film results in one of the most terrifying outcome in filmmaking: mediocrity

This film is interesting in regards to its target audience: it seems to be trying to please everybody, including the original fanbase (now likely in their twenties), as well as younger and more recent fans of the franchise. Because of this stretched out range, the film struggles to balance itself between the horror elements that made the game famous with its more light hearted and comedic parts. The film never entirely commits to either with the actual antics of the animatronics being reduced to brief moments of hostility. While FNAF never needed to be extreme in its violence, the very tame use of it in the film will result in many viewers being left bored and unengaged.

Matthew Lillard, famous for his role in the Scream franchise as well as numerous other 90’s/2000’s films like Scooby-Doo, also stars in this film. Lillard’s charisma and campy personality in this film is genuinely enjoyable to watch, however his  limited screen-time means the audience never really gets to appreciate it. Instead the film rations its duration amongst the  film’s titular lead, Josh Hutcherson (who plays the film’s sleepy security guard, Mike Schmidt), and an assortment of one dimensional characters. In a game franchise famed for its isolation and minimal cast, this film’s pizzeria is seriously over-crowded.

Compliments must given however to the animatronics’ design in the film: created by Jim Henson’s creature shop (famous for the muppets) the lifelike and surprisingly detailed quality of characters like Freddy and Foxy are a spectacle to watch on screen as well as installing some much needed tension in the film. Considering the most iconic part of this game franchise is of course the animatronics, the film does manage to preserve this within the film.

…this film’s pizzeria is seriously over-crowded

Despite this, however, large portions of this film are given to repetitive dream sequences and shallow exposition. Games which thrived on anticipation and mystery and yet this is not in any way carried on into the film. Instead, audience members may find themselves sharing the character  Mike’s drowsy tendencies. While Cawthon may have successfully crafted the nightmares of many years earlier, the structure of the film, as well as character’s dialogue, leaves much to be desired. It also raises interesting questions as to how closely a franchise needs to be protected by its creator as it transitions into the world of cinema.

Despite all this, the film had a largely successful box office opening weekend;  it grossed around 130 million dollars, making it the best performing horror film of 2023. This points toward sequels on the franchise’s horizon and with a vast assortment of animatronics still waiting for their big screen appearance (*cough* the marionette) future films definitely seem likely. However, if this first outing to Freddy’s says anything, audiences may find more scares and suspense from their consoles and PC’s.


Realistic animatronics do not save this sleepy adaptation of a fan favourite horror franchise, with the writing quality being the thing to haunt viewers’ minds.

Rating: 4/10

Five Nights at Freddy’s is available to watch now in cinemas everywhere.

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