Five Nights at Freddy’s offers tween-friendly creepiness

Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures
MURDER-ATRONIC: (Left to right) Bonnie (voiced by Jade Kindar-Martin), Freddy Fazbear (voiced by Kevin Foster), and Chica (voiced by Jessica Weiss) are three of four murderous animatronics at a haunted arcade, in the new horror mystery thriller Five Nights at Freddy’s, screening in local theaters and streaming on Peacock.

Emma Tammi (Fair Chase, The Wind) directs this horror mystery thriller about Mike Schmidt (Josh Hutcherson), a security guard hired to oversee Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza, a once successful but now defunct kid-centric restaurant and arcade, whose four animatronic mascots—Freddy Fazbear, Bonnie, Chica, and Foxy—turn murderous after midnight. The film is based on the 2014 point-and-click survival video game of the same name. (110 min.)

Glen: If you’re looking for a Halloween fright flick that’s not too frightening for tweens, this may be the ticket. Imagine a Chuck E. Cheese inhabited by Chucky of Child’s Play. Mike reluctantly agrees to the night job after he lost his job as a mall cop for beating up a customer he thought was abducting a child. Oops! Seedy career counselor Steve Raglan suggests the Freddy’s job, and because his Aunt Jane (Mary Stuart Masterson) is trying to wrest conservatorship of Mike’s younger sister, Abby (Piper Rubio), from him, out of desperation he begins his new duties. The place is suitably creepy, and weirdness starts right away. Then beat cop Vanessa (Elizabeth Lail) shows up to check on Freddy’s new guard and offers Mike some backstory on the cursed business. Mike’s got a backstory of his own. Turns out he’s hyper attuned to child abductions because as a 12-year-old, his younger brother, Garrett (Lucas Grant), was snatched right from under his nose. Mike’s psychological distress adds to the mystery and tension.

Anna: There is no denying the animatronic characters give off a creepy vibe with their slow blinking, glowing eyes and weird teeth. Luckily the filmmakers decided that this may be a fun film for a younger crowd and kept it geared toward spook and not gore. Mike is worn out and feels the weight of raising his younger sister. He’s clearly got some PTSD from his childhood trauma and can’t seem to catch a break from it interfering with his life. This seemingly simple gig is just another Band-Aid on the gaping wound of his life, but hey—if it helps keep Abby away from menacing Aunt Jane, he’ll do it. Abby is always lost in her drawings that prominently feature her big brother and her imaginary friends, but she struggles to have a social life with anyone “real” her age. It’s no coincidence that Abby’s imaginary play group resembles the animatronic animals, and the mystery of how it’s all connected is eventually revealed. This is a perfect film for the family who is looking for some Halloween spooks with their tweens but doesn’t want the consequence of the nightmares that true horror movies can bring.

Glen: Agreed, but to be fair, one victim gets bitten in half. It’s not gory, but it’s shocking! I think what made the film tolerable for me was Mike’s backstory and the emotion it brings. For the most part, this is a slight film, notable for its ’90s nostalgia. I’ve never played the video game, but I imagine the filmmakers dropped in some references for players that didn’t register with me. It’s probably worth a matinee with the kids, but I doubt it’s destined to be a Halloween classic. 

Anna: Oh yeah, I forgot about that guy! Agreed, there isn’t anything particularly magical about the film. I definitely had some flashbacks to arcades as a kid—a lot of the games in Freddy’s were the ones I grew up around. I can see shelling out for a matinee if you want the theater experience, or watching at home if you subscribe to Peacock.

New Times Senior Staff Writer Glen Starkey and freelancer Anna Starkey write Sun Screen. Comment at [email protected].

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