Five Nights at Freddy's
Kiddie horror should've been shorter.
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I’ve never played the video game “Five Nights at Freddy’s.” I did however see the quicker-to-the-draw Nicolas Cage-fronted knockoff “Willy’s Wonderland” from a few years back. The filmic adaptation of “Five Nights at Freddy’s” (now in theaters and streaming on Peacock) wasn’t made for me. (I have a niece and a nephew seeing the flick this weekend.) That, much like the movie itself, is OK.
Some people have a bad day or a bad week. Mike (Josh Hutcherson) is in the midst of a bad life. When he was 12 he witnessed his younger brother Garrett (Lucas Grant) get abducted during a family camping trip. His brother was never found, his apprehender never caught and his parents never recovered. Mike’s folks have since died, but not before they had another kid, Abby (Piper Rubio). She’s now Mike’s responsibility.
Mike has trouble sleeping without prescription medicine and even more difficulty keeping a steady job – he was recently fired from a mall security gig for beating a father up in front of his child mistakenly thinking he was stopping a kidnapping. Mike and Abby’s Aunt Jane (Mary Stuart Masterson – good to see her again – too bad the role ain’t better) wants to take custody of the young girl solely for the monthly state stipend.
Mike needs a job if he wants to keep Abby and he needs one fast. He visits a temp agency embodied by Steve Raglan (Matthew Lillard), who offers him a position as the night watchman at the now-defunct Showbiz Pizza/Chuck E. Cheese imitator Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza. The gig should be easy enough – monitor the monitors, tidy up when necessary and keep the riffraff out. Of course, things take a turn for the weird right from the jump. Comely and knowledgeable lady cop Vanessa (Elizabeth Lail, “You”) turns up to give Mike the lay of the land.
The movie is directed by Emma Tammi (“The Wind”) and scripted by Tammi, “Five Nights at Freddy’s” creator Scott Cawthon and Seth Cuddeback (with screen story assistance from “Tragedy Girls” co-writers Chris Lee Hill and Tyler MacIntyre). There’s a lot to admire about the picture – I liked Hutcherson and Rubio’s performances and their chemistry together, the animatronic animals from Jim Henson’s Creature Shop are admittedly pretty cool – but there’s both too little and too much of what could’ve made this really sing.
On the too little front – there’s not enough violence! There’s one good kill and that’s it and you’ll definitely know it when you see it. (I’m honestly surprised this one made it into a PG-13 flick.) On the too much front – this thing’s way too long at almost two hours. I literally felt as if I’d spent five nights at Freddy’s.
“Five Nights at Freddy’s” has more budget, story and substance than “Willy’s Wonderland” and yet I preferred that leaner (88 minutes) and meaner (it’s R-rated!) feature. It also has Nic Cage dancing while playing pinball … so there’s that.