The good news was this meant I could watch this movie with an open mind, despite some of the negative buzz it's been getting from most critics. I'm not prepared to fully stand up to the critical consensus by declaring that this film is a masterpiece, because it is far from great, but the Five Nights At Freddy's movie was more fun than I was anticipating, and in a cinema landscape containing some fairly woeful video game adaptations, this one is far from the worst.
I know there are many fans complaining that the animatronic characters are not used to the extent they should have been, and admittedly there aren't as many shocking gory kills as you're hoping for. Every time something really nasty is about to happen to someone, the camera cuts away, making it remarkably tame for a 15-rated movie. However, when the animatronics are on screen, I thought they were a great presence. They looked really good, and they're used in some very effective moments of horror that make up for the somewhat tame gore.
Josh Hutcherson plays the lead character Mike, and it's great to see him in something this big again after his child actor performances in films like Bridge to Terabithia (2007). He lends the film more realism than you expect from a film about killer robot animals. The relationship he has with his little sister Abby, as well as the traumatic memories he has about his brother going missing, were surprisingly well-handled and incorporated into the plot in a way that didn't muddy up the narrative. Well, for the most part.
So the core of the film is actually pretty good. Unfortunately there are some issues once we come out of this. It's a tonal mess for one thing, with moments of tension and brutal fates being undercut by bizarre moments of comedy, the most notable being a montage of the robots helping Abby build a den while Connection by Elastica plays in the background. Mike's aunt is an overbearingly annoying and cartoonish side character trying to take custody rights away from him, an issue you'd think the scriptwriters would take a bit more seriously. The first act is also a bit of a mess, with little more than dour dialogue-driven exchanges and strange nightmarish visions for the first half-hour until the movie finally gets going.
And once it gets going, it did begin to click with me. I found the third act to be a lot of fun, as it focuses in on the story's best elements and has some cool twists and moments in store. I'm also quite interested in how the film leaves certain things open for potential sequels, which there almost definitely will be since cinema tickets for Five Nights at Freddy's have been selling like hot cakes.
There are a lot of things here that need work. The tone is confused, the plot is occasionally convoluted, and the film sometimes feels like it's holding back on its best assets. However, if the inevitable sequels work on ironing out these problems and ramp up the ridiculousness, then a non-initiate like me might come back and pay for a ticket. Who knows? I might actually play the games.
Nah I'm kidding.