Five Nights at Freddy’s is a 2023 American supernatural horror film based on the video game series of the same name created by Scott Cawthon. Directed by Emma Tammi, who co-wrote the screenplay with Cawthon and Seth Cuddeback, the film stars Josh Hutcherson with Elizabeth Lail, Piper Rubio, Mary Stuart Masterson, and Matthew Lillard appearing in supporting roles. Hutcherson plays a troubled security guard working in an abandoned family entertainment center, where he discovers the animatronic mascots are possessed by homicidal children.
Development of a Five Nights at Freddy’s film adaptation began in April 2015 under the direction of Warner Bros. Pictures. Roy Lee, David Katzenberg, and Seth Grahame-Smith were set to produce it, with Gil Kenan announced as director and co-writer. After multiple production delays, Kenan resigned from the project, and further development on the film was transferred from Warner Bros. to Jason Blum’s Blumhouse Productions. Chris Columbus was hired to direct and co-write, ultimately leaving the project and being replaced by Emma Tammi in October 2022. Under a budget of $20 million, filming began in New Orleans and took place from February to April 2023.
Five Nights at Freddy’s was released for streaming on Peacock and theatrically in the United States on October 26, 2023, by Universal Pictures. The film received generally negative reviews from critics but was a commercial success, becoming Blumhouse’s highest-grossing film worldwide with $295 million.
At Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza, an abandoned pizzeria and family entertainment center that was once successful, a night security guard attempts to flee from the place but is captured and strapped to a torture device, which kills him.
Sometime later, mall security guard Mike Schmidt is fired for assaulting a negligent father whom he mistook for a kidnapper. Mike’s career counselor, Steve Raglan, offers him a job as a night guard at Freddy’s. Though initially reluctant, Mike accepts after social services threaten to take custody of his younger sister Abby and pass her to their estranged aunt Jane, who desires the custody’s monthly payments.
During his first night on the job, Mike falls asleep and dreams about the kidnapping of his little brother, Garrett. He meets five children who also witnessed the crime, but flee when he approaches them. The following day, Jane hires a gang of vandals, which includes Abby’s babysitter Max and is led by Max’s brother Jeff, to vandalize the restaurant in order to get Mike fired and hasten Jane’s custody of Abby. At Mike’s shift that night, he meets police officer Vanessa Shelly, who explains that Freddy’s closed during the 1980s after five children were murdered there. The suspect and the victims’ bodies were never found. Once Mike’s shift ends and he leaves, the vandals break in, but the restaurant’s animatronic mascots—Freddy Fazbear, Bonnie, Chica, Foxy, and Mr. Cupcake—become alive and kill the entire group. Max’s disappearance forces Mike to bring Abby along on his next shift, in which the animatronics befriend Abby and Mike discovers that the animatronics are possessed by the amnesiac ghosts of the missing children, whose leader consistently mentions a “yellow rabbit”.
On the fourth night, Abby is accidentally injured when she, Mike, and Vanessa are bonding with the animatronics. The next morning, Mike gets Jane to babysit a frustrated Abby as he goes back to Freddy’s and takes some sleeping pills. The children appear in his dream again and tell him that he can stay with Garrett forever in exchange for Abby. Mike initially accepts but when he changes his mind, he is attacked by Foxy and wakes up strapped to the torture device. He escapes by removing pins that his predecessor had loosened. Meanwhile, a damaged yellow Freddy animatronic, possessed by the leader of the children, kills Jane and takes Abby back to the restaurant.
Vanessa treats Mike’s injuries and reveals that she is the daughter of William Afton, the serial killer who kidnapped and murdered the five children and Garrett. He hid their bodies in the animatronics, knowing the police would never search those, and their souls are under his control. Realizing that the animatronics plan to kill Abby and have her join them, Mike rushes to the restaurant. The animatronics are defeated, but reactivated by Steve, who arrives wearing the “yellow rabbit” suit, revealing himself to be William.
Knowing the animatronics like drawings, Abby draws a picture of William murdering the children in order to free them from his influence and make them realize the truth. Vanessa attempts to stop her father but he stabs her. When the animatronics see Abby’s drawing, they turn on William. Mr. Cupcake bites off part of William’s suit, triggering its internal springlock mechanisms, which fatally wound him. As they drag him away, Mike and Abby carry Vanessa out of the restaurant, who later falls into a coma and is hospitalized. Shortly after, Mike and Abby reconcile and resume their normal lives.
- Josh Hutcherson as Mike Schmidt, a new security guard at Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza
- Wyatt Parker as Young Mike
- Piper Rubio as Abby, Mike’s younger sister
- Elizabeth Lail as Vanessa, a local police officer
- Emma Jo Tassin as Young Vanessa
- Mary Stuart Masterson as Aunt Jane, Mike and Abby’s aunt
- Matthew Lillard as Steve Raglan / William Afton, Mike’s career counselor
- Kat Conner Sterling as Max, Abby’s babysitter
- David Lind as Jeff, the leader of a juvenile gang and Max’s brother
- Christian Stokes as Hank, a member of Jeff’s gang
- Joseph Poliquin as Carl, a member of Jeff’s gang
- Grant Feely as Ghost Kid (Blonde Boy), the murdered child whose soul haunts Golden Freddy
- Asher Colton Spence as Ghost Kid (With Hook), the murdered child whose soul haunts Foxy
- David Houston Doty as Ghost Kid (With Bunny Ears), the murdered child whose soul haunts Bonnie
- Liam Hendrix as Ghost Kid (With Hat), the murdered child whose soul haunts Freddy Fazbear
- Jophielle Love as Ghost Kid (Blue-Eyed Girl), the murdered child whose soul haunts Chica
- Tadasay Young as Dr. Lillian
- Michael P. Sullivan as Doug, Jane’s lawyer
- Lucas Grant as Garrett, Mike’s younger brother who was abducted as a child
- Theodus Crane as Jeremiah, Mike’s previous co-worker
- Matthew Patrick as Sparky’s Diner waiter
- Cory Williams as a cabbie
The suit performers include Kevin Foster as Freddy Fazbear, the restaurant’s namesake brown bear animatronic; Jade Kindar-Martin as Bonnie, an indigo rabbit animatronic; and Jessica Weiss as Chica, a yellow chicken animatronic. The scatted pirate song that Foxy, a red pirate fox animatronic, sings throughout the film is performed by Kellen Goff.
Five Nights at Freddy’s was released simultaneously in theaters and on Peacock in the United States by Universal Pictures on October 27, 2023. It was released two days earlier on October 25, 2023, in the United Kingdom.
On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, 30% of 205 critics’ reviews are positive, with an average rating of 4.5/10. The website’s consensus reads: “Loaded with Easter eggs, Five Nights at Freddy’s may be fun to watch for fans of the game, but most viewers of any other persuasion will find this adaptation muddled and decidedly unscary.” Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigned the film a score of 33 out of 100, based on 38 critics, indicating “generally unfavorable” reviews. Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of “A−” on an A+ to F scale, while those polled at PostTrak gave it a 77% overall positive score.
Five Nights at Freddy’s received generally negative reviews from critics. The film’s plot, pacing, lack of scares, and perceived shoehorning in of fan-service were widely panned. There was also “shock and disappointment” expressed over the film’s PG-13 rating, which made it challenging to depict the “dark and gruesome nature” of the video game.
Murtada Elfadl of Variety felt the animatronic characters were underutilized, with the film instead focusing on “a baffling plot and backstory for their protagonist”. He also criticized a perceived lack of effective jump scares and concluded, “In trying to adapt the game for the screen, they forgot what makes the original special, wringing unintentional laughter from its bizarre story instead of entertaining audiences”. Dylan Roth of The New York Observer gave the film a score of one out of five and wrote, “There are jump scares, but no real thrills. There are jokes, but no genuine laughs”.
The Guardian’s Benjamin Lee gave a two out of five rating, arguing “The low-stakes, late-night thrill we expect from the material never arrives, held back by a mixture of indecisive restraint and misplaced self-importance. Five Nights at Freddy’s is somehow a slog to get through and will be promptly forgotten by morning”. The New York Times’s Natalia Winkelmann expressed similar criticisms: “…[Although] Five Nights at Freddy’s, based on a popular video game franchise, reaches for horror-comedy flair, this dreary, mild adaptation never achieves the hybrid pleasures of a movie like M3GAN. You may chuckle, but it’s hard to tell if the movie is laughing with you”. RogerEbert.com’s Simon Abrams, giving a two out of four rating, was also negative: “Five Nights at Freddy’s has most of the right elements for a good post-Amblin kiddy fright-fest, except maybe good dialogue and distinct characters. Watching the movie, one gets the sense that the games’ morbid personality has been sanded down to its most generic jump-scares and banal revelations.”
Meagan Navarro of Bloody Disgusting gave a score of three out of five and wrote, “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. Five Nights at Freddy’s won’t scare the pants off of seasoned horror fans; the animatronic denizens of Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzeria will likely make you want to hug them instead”. Total Film’s Neil Smith scored the film a two out of five and ended his review, “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”.
Mark Kennedy of the Associated Press stated: “Caught between PG and R, as well as lost at the crossroads of inadvertent comedy and horror, the PG-13 Five Nights at Freddy’s has to go down as one of the poorest films in any genre this year”. Similarly, the Chicago Tribune’s Michael Phillips condemned “the film’s attempt to be a cuddly version of Saw, with faces getting sliced open by a robo-critter’s whirring saw blades”, going on to say “To keep the PG-13 rating intact, the camera and editor cut away just before the splurch, nearly every time… The premise, meantime, of Five Nights at Freddy’s… very likely would’ve made more sense as a straight-up R-rated splatterfest.
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