This year has been a good one for video game adaptations, with titles such as The Last of Us and The Super Mario Bros. Movie hitting our screens, but one of the flicks we’ve been most excited about this Halloween season is one that fans have been waiting on for nearly a decade. Five Nights at Freddy’s has been released on streaming and theatrically, but critics had the opportunity to screen the horror game adaptation early, and they’re not holding back on their assessment of Freddy Fazbear’s world of animatronic tragedy.
Emma Tammi has brought Scott Cawthorn’s brainchild to life in the big-screen adaptation, which stars Josh Hutcherson and Matthew Lillard. Fans are familiar with the lore — and if you’ve never played the video games, here’s everything you need to know — so let’s get straight to the critics, starting with CinemaBlend’s review of Five Nights at Freddy’s. Our own Dirk Libbey rates the film just 1.5 stars out of 5, saying it’s only slightly better than actually being murdered by robots at a birthday party. He continues:
It turns out, that if you were to actually see a giant fuzzy bear robot stalk a human being, it would look really silly. As a result, the ‘violent’ and almost entirely bloodless horror moments in this PG-13 horror movie come across as more comic than carnage. It would be one thing if that were intentional, but everything else about the movie’s tone doesn’t indicate that’s the case. The franchises' trademark jump scares are surprisingly minimal, which may be a good thing for most movie audiences, but if there were any place such things would feel justified, it seems like this would be it.
Neil Smith of GamesRadar agrees the movie is decidedly not scary and only occasionally delivers on the promised fun. Smith rates FNAF 2 stars out of 5, writing:
With robot heads containing flesh-mangling chainsaws, faces resembling that of battle-scarred Terminators, and the lumbering gait of Romero zombies, Freddy Fazbear and his pals would seem precision-tooled for terror. Sadly, though, they are about as scary as Barney the purple dinosaur in what is ultimately a ploddingly predictable, gore-lite yawner.
Megan Peters of ComicBook.com rates the film 2.5 out of 5, saying that longtime fans will be impressed with the easter eggs and the way the spirit of the original games is captured. Peters and other critics agree that Freddy, Bonnie, Chica and Foxy look great, too, thanks to Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, but its weak story and disjointed scares make this venture ultimately disappointing. The critic says:
Unfortunately, the film's aesthetic is its strongest attribute. When it comes to the story, Five Nights at Freddy's is a nightmare. Bloated with characters and tangents, this movie is incredibly convoluted. Young fans may not be swayed by the disjointed plot, but longtime fans and adults will be left at a loss. For many, the charm of Five Nights at Freddy's is its tense scares and the lore behind its animatronics. While some of this is found in the film, Five Nights at Freddy's spends most of its time fleshing out its human cast, and their backstories are flimsy, at best.
Frank Scheck of THR says longtime fans of the Freddy Fazbear lore will wish they’d just stayed home and played the game. In the critic’s words:
Five Nights at Freddy’s… never quite figures out what it wants to be. It seems to be aiming for cult status, but isn’t nearly transgressive enough to achieve it. It promises a gore fest, but keeps the violence sanitized enough to secure a PG-13 rating. And rather than expand on the sort of mayhem contained in the video game experience, it provides a tragic backstory that seeks to provide emotional depth but instead just slows the proceedings to a crawl. The ultimate result is a snooze.
Meagan Navarro of Bloody Disgusting agrees the FNAF movie is light on scares, calling it an “adorable” gateway horror, but that’s mostly intentional. Fans are sure to appreciate the world Emma Tammi has developed, including those charming, murderous animatronics. Navarro rates it 3 skulls out of 5, saying:
The simplicity of the story and the emphasis on the human characters’ conflicts means that the pacing is prone to lulls in the nearly two-hour runtime, unhelped by the lack of tension or suspense. There’s no real sense of danger, either, save for the more obvious fodder. That’s largely by design; Five Nights at Freddy’s is meant as gateway horror for younger audiences or the devout fans that’ll appreciate the treasure trove of Easter eggs and references to the game. It’s the type of handsomely made, charming creature feature that’ll play well at slumber parties or rowdy theaters full of obsessed fans, which is precisely its target audience.
The critics seem mostly underwhelmed by the lack of jumpscares and overall horror from the long-anticipated video game adaptation, with Five Nights at Freddy’s receiving just 27% on Rotten Tomatoes from more than 80 critics.
However, these opinions shouldn’t deter the loyal fandom who have waited years to see this movie, and if you do want to check it out, FNAF is in theaters now and also available to stream with a Peacock subscription. Be sure to see what other upcoming horror movies are headed our way, or films of any genre with our 2023 Movie Release Calendar.