HOLLYWOOD—When I saw the flick “Five Nights At Freddy’s” being advertised on the streaming service Peacock, I didn’t think much of it. The movie didn’t really have an appeal that grabbed my attention. I did hear about the box office bonanza it had during its first weekend in theaters, which was damn impressive. I mean a $75 to $80 million haul for a PG-13 horror flick on its opening weekend, I had never heard of. You have to give the movie props. However, that still didn’t pique my interest. My niece told me about this flick she saw, and I said, ok, maybe I should watch “Five Nights At Freddy’s.”
To my surprise I was quite delighted with the results. If you asked me to describe the movie with one word I would say, INTERESTING, but in a good way. The film has a great narrative that hooks you and draws you into the orbit of our protagonist Mike Schmidt (Josh Hutcherson). Hutcherson does a stellar job balancing a character who you have a perspective about him upon first glance, but as the film progresses there are more and more layers that are peeled away.
Mike is suffering from some serious trauma. His brother was kidnapped when he was 12 and never found. Mike holds himself responsible for his brother’s abduction and has difficulty sleeping at night. Or so the audience is made to believe that at first. He has a job as a security guard at the mall, but an incident results in him being fired. Out of work, and desperate to keep custody of his little sister Abby (Piper Rubio), Mike considers a job at Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza.
Think of the place as Chuck E’ Cheese, but on steroids with large animatronic puppets that come to life when you least expect it. Trust me, there is indeed more to the story. Mike is warned by his career counselor, Steve Raglan (Matthew Lillard) that the job is simple; ensure no one breaks into the facility that has been abandoned for years. Seems simple right? It does, but strange things happen at this place at night, so much so to the point that the audience starts to wonder if the dreams that Mike has are fake or a part of reality.
He keeps playing in his mind when his brother is being kidnapped, but not seeing the person who committed the crime, but there are kids who confront him each time and the movie becomes a puzzle. Can you put the pieces to the movie together before the clues are revealed? I found myself trying to connect the dots and eager to connect those dots and that is a savvy move by the filmmakers.
The movie also has relatable characters, a withdrawn child who happens to be raised by an older sibling who is not quite ready for the responsibility, a cop, Vanessa (Elizabeth Lail), who is kind-hearted and builds up a relationship with Mike while he struggles during his shift at the facility. A protagonist who is battling some serious demons and antagonists who may be just evil or controlled by something else. That is the one element of “Five Nights At Freddy’s” I did not love, the supernatural. Without spoiling the twists, that element just didn’t connect or wow me the way I expected and wanted to be wowed as a moviegoer. It works, but it is perhaps the weakest element in the entire narrative.
The violence is toned to a point that it is not too much for kids, but at the same time these fun puppetry characters are a bit creepy and could give kids some nightmares. Is that the intent? Possible, but I wouldn’t recommend the flick for anyone under the age of 11 or 12. The movie also has a few surprises that I did not expect, which were welcome surprises that I absolutely enjoyed. If I did a second watch I am certain I would be able to connect those dots and see where I overlooked them. Great pacing, thrilling moments and a narrative unlike anything we’ve seen in the horror realm. “Five Nights At Freddy’s” is more a surprise in a good way than expected. It is horror with a twist.