NOTE: The following review will eventually be moved to an updated 'Arcade' page.
This is yet another video game-based movie I know nothing about because I've never actually participated in any of these games. So, once again, I'm watching this objectively and treating it more as a horror movie than a video game adaptation. The bonus there is that I'm not necessarily looking for all of the flaws in the adaptation. But that also doesn't mean they're not there for game fans who rightfully should demand more than just a name slapped onto something to make some cash. 'Five Nights' here strikes me as such a movie.
From what I understand, almost half of this movie actually unfolds reasonably well. The opening sequence is nice and creepy, giving 'Saw' vibes to the viewer, but without showing any real gore. This will definitely be complained about, but I'm generally of the mind that often less is more. No blood is fine as long as your imagination can fill in the blanks with something even more potentially gruesome. That's something this film did well, and upon doing some homework, I've read that the games forego the blood and gore in exchange for atmosphere. You get this treatment throughout the film, so if you're here for the gore, this is not for you.
We meet mall security guard Mike Schmidt (Josh Hutcherson), who one day gets fired for beating some kid's father half to death in the middle of the day and out in the open. Needless to say, he's fired. However, he does have to take care of his little sister, Abby (Piper Rubio), whom social services are threatening to hand over to who might as well be her over-the-top Disney-style evil aunt Jane (Mary Stuart Masterson); in it more for the custody monthly payments. As a result, Mike, willing to do anything, takes a security job at the now abandoned "Freddy Fazbears," a "Chuck E. Cheese"-style pizza restaurant that kids still often come around to vandalize.
Mike often falls asleep on the job and has bad dreams about his little brother, Garrett (Lucas Grant), who was one day kidnapped when they were young. Without spoiling too much, this has a deeper connection to the overall story. But at one point, Jane sends some goons to rough up "Fazbears," and this, as far as I'm concerned, is the best part of the movie. The animatronic characters start coming to life and protecting their restaurant in some pretty badass and brutal ways. Again, there is no blood, but the effect is creepy, and I wondered quite honestly why so many people came out of this hating it. If the whole movie was gonna be like that, I was in for the ride.
Mike meets this cop who seems to do routine checks at the restaurant, Vanessa (Elizabeth Lail), who gives him a tour of the place and its dark history. And I'm just gonna say that one night, Mike brings his little sister there. She befriends these animatronic terrors, and for some reason, the movie almost goes into "fun mode." As soon as it hits that point, you wonder what the hell happened. The film does explain a lot more, but if I'm gonna be perfectly honest, I don't entirely understand why it went the way it went, which was totally cliche. I immediately compared what became the film's central plot with the 'The Shining,' and it just didn't need to go there.
With something like this (and please, fans, correct me if I'm wrong), one could have just as easily made these animatronics the vengeful spirits they're supposed to be and made a Jason or Michael Myers-like slasher flick out of this and make it about Mike having to survive the night while these things go amok but aren't necessarily seen by Mike doing it. Victims could be anything from criminals to risk-taking teenagers. While probably still not the best, it could have been a good "body count" horror movie that worked its creepy factor to the max. If the movie was like the scene here with the vandals, I feel that would have been fine.
It's my understanding that when it comes to this film, however, it's meant to be a good toe-dip for younger audiences into the horror genre. To this, I can't honestly say I disagree, and it IS about time another one of these came along. However, there's a heavy kidnapping plot to this that probably would have traumatized me as a kid, and it's hard to know if this really knows what it wants to be. The right age for this is basically "puberty," I suppose. But this film couldn't quite pick a lane, and it is the first really big dip I've seen in video game adaptation quality in a while (debatable, yes, but it's just my opinion).