Brace yourself, because Five Night’s at Freddy’s is about to set some records. It’s already the highest opening day for a video game movie ever, and it’s setting its sights on a $78 million opening weekend, easily the highest for any horror movie this year by a large amount. Longer term, we’ll have to see, but at a budget of $20 million, this is a runaway hit.
Anyone even remotely aware of youth video game culture may have predicted this, as the series has been a craze for years now among Gen Z and their idols like Markiplier and MatPat. Now, that coming to the big screen, and being at least somewhat satisfying for fans is making it a megahit. Critic scores are trash but audience reviews and its A- cinemascore are extremely high.
Since I knew this was going to be a big “moment,” I wanted to watch the movie myself, which I did with its co-release on Peacock yesterday, which clearly has not affected its box office. While I am obviously a big video game guy, I have absolutely zero connection with the game. I’ve never played it, and I just know that the youths are crazy about it. I know it’s about murderous, knock-off Chuck-E-Cheese robots, but that’s about it.
So, I’m trying to take it as just a pure horror movie which I thought was…actually pretty okay. I think what a lot of people are missing is that this is kind of “baby’s first horror movie” in a lot of ways, as condescending as that may sound. It’s PG-13 and it’s based on a Teen-rated game. I do think the movie would have been a better horror movie if it was more gory than it was (see Willy’s Wonderland for a similar concept with more gore plus Nicholas Cage), but I also understand why that decision was made based on the audience who would go see it. FNAF would not be anywhere near this scale of hit if an R-rating cut off 75% of the viewerbase, at minimum.
The aesthetic here is great. I am deeply impressed with how they did these animatronics, bringing them to life from the game in a deeply unsettling fashion with practical effects. I thought Josh Hutcherson did a solid job as the lead, and I was very much invested in the whole “what happened to the missing kids” storyline, even if the movie did pull a “Scooby Doo” where of course the ultimate bad guy was…really the only other character they showed in the movie (and yes, I realize the irony of the Scooby Doo reference).
The film works. It’s not particularly scary, but I am admittedly coming at this from the perspective of someone who’s favorite horror movie is Hereditary. If I was an 11 year-old, sure, this may be terrifying. I’m hearing stories of young kids who are into Five Nights at Freddy’s as a game, but this big-screen version is just too much for them.
I am deeply unsurprised at the vast gulf between critics and audiences here. No, Five Night’s at Freddy’s is probably not in my top 50 horror movies, but it’s perfectly serviceable, and I’ve seen far worse with much more gore and jump scares. Fundamentally this does work, and it really seems to be working for the core fanbase, hence the high scores and massive ticket sales. Expect, I don’t know, five more of these, at least.
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