Five Nights at Freddy's

Five Nights at Freddy's ½

Absolutely terrible.

Tonally a complete mess, oscillating between half-hearted scares and heavy-handed, ludicrously stupid character drama – the protagonist is entirely without interiority or complexity, with his only character trait being having trauma over the kidnapping of his brother. A bunch of clumsy attempts to connect this both to his relationship with his sister and to the main plot about murderous animatronics lead nowhere, since it's hard to say what the outcome of the predictable arc has to do with any of that. The script certainly feels like the work of a guy mostly known for indie games that have more lore than narrative; hiring an actual screenwriter would have been a good idea.

The story could have been salvaged with actors slightly more interested in what they were doing, but the filmmaking is just bad. While it should not surprise that a horror movie for 9-year-olds rarely manages to be scary or even unnerving, the weak editing and poor structure fundamentally undercut all sense of tension in a way that just makes it unbearably boring to watch. I can't tell if the set design is just unexciting in general or if how Five Nights at Freddy's is lit and shot just means you never get a good look at it. There is, in any case, no compelling image-making here, just bland colors and blander compositions; both the fun security camera aspect and the VHS aesthetic (both of which the games leaned heavily on, I assume) are grossly underused.

I want to give a special shoutout to how bad the animatronics are. The glowing red eyes are a particularly disastrous creative choice, but just the base designs themselves are far too faithful to the design limitations and visuals of the franchise's original medium, making the entirely (?) practical effects look like bad CGI instead of something that could and would exist in real life. I guess they're like that just to avoid pissing off the fans, but being this lazy and uncreative in its adaptation makes the movie look like a mediocre fan film.

Anyway, all the sequel baiting sure is shameless. Very lucky that zoomers happy to boycott Rowling already rolled in to theaters so ready to throw money at the franchise creator and producer, a pro-life Trump fan, that it's basically inevitable at this point. Actually, the general vibe is already that of a critically unsuccessful late horror franchise installment; feels like this could have been the sixth or the seventh FNaF movie. Well, at least it's hard to get much worse than this.

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