The Five Night at Freddy’s game franchise has been in development as a film project for so long that the eventual movie from Blumhouse has been pre-empted by both The Banana Splits and Willy’s Wonderland – which use basically the same premise and play much better than this typical game-into-film hash.
Mike (Josh Hutcherson), who takes sleeping pills to encourage nightmares about his kid brother’s abduction in the hope he can identify an uncaught villain, is forced to take a job as a night security guard at an abandoned fast food emporium, Freddy Fazbear’s, because he is in a custody battle about his moppet sister Abby (Piper Rubio) with their nasty aunt (Mary Stuart Masterson).
We’re repeatedly told that Freddy’s was big in the Eighties, which is a longer time ago now than when script development began, and closed after a scandal which led to the ghosts of murdered children possessing the robot suit/avatars of Freddy the Bear, Foxy the Fox, Bonnie the Dog, Chica the Chicken and an anthropomorphised cupcake. The ghost kids, who show up in Mike’s dreams, are creepier than the animatronics, which don’t register much as characters or as menaces. They aren’t much of a house band either.
One problem is that the title imposes a stop-and-start structure which keeps killing the momentum. One scary night would work better than five with time-outs for daytime plot about the evil auntie or a deep backstory which fails to conceal the obvious surprise villain. The Banana Splits repurposes vintage IP in a genuinely transgressive manner and Willy’s Wonderland pits Nicolas Cage in a rage against big killpuppets… all the actual Five Nights film has left to play with is carry-over from its game source, which scarcely raises a frisson. The welcome presence of Matthew Lillard sets up a decent Scream in-joke, though.
Universal Pictures will release Blumhouse’s Five Nights At Freddy’s on 25 October 2023.