Film Review: Five Nights at Freddy’s (Universal Pictures)

By: Jesse Striewski

Truthfully, I knew very little about Five Nights at Freddy’s prior to going into the new film other than it’s a game I’ve surely pumped plenty of money into over the years already thanks to my kid, and it bore a striking resemblance (at least on the surface) to the 2021 Nicholas Cage vehicle Willy’s Wonderland.

But perhaps my ignorance of the franchise was actually advantageous in this case; having little to no knowledge of the source material, and in turn no real expectations of the film itself, I went in with more or less a blank slate. That said, I really enjoyed what was on display on the big screen.

John Hutcherson plays Mike Schmidt, a down-on-his luck, unemployed security guard raising his little sister Abby (Piper Rubio) solo while also dealing with the guilt and trauma of losing their little brother to a kidnapper when he was twelve years old. After accepting an ill-advised overnight position from his career counselor (Matthew Lillard) at a defunct ’80s family entertainment center called Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzeria, things take a turn for the worse for him.

It’s quickly apparent after starting the job and meeting local beat cop Vanessa Shelly (Elizabeth Lail) that there’s more going on behind the scenes at Freddy’s, discovering the animatronic figures in the pizzeria are not only possessed, but also share a certain connection to his long lost brother (and a creepy reaction whenever The Romantics track “Talking in Your Sleep” comes on).

Aside from a fairly uninteresting subplot involving a custody battle with a vicious aunt (Mary Stuart Masterson), the film actually moves along quite nicely (albeit a bit slow at times). And while others have criticized its focus on the kidnapping backstory, it never goes the route that so many similar films have before it with unnecessary sex and violence (and/or gore).

Is Five Nights at Freddy’s a flawless movie? Of course not. But is it harmless enough, PG-13 level campy fun that you can take the family to without cringing the whole time? Absolutely.

Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

Film Review: Willy’s Wonderland (Saturn Films/Landmark Studio Group/Landafar Entertainment/JD Entertainment)

By: Jesse Striewski

This Nicolas Cage-driven horror/comedy hybrid romp, directed by Kevin Lewis, ranges from being part harmless homage to such goofy ’80s guilty pleasures as Killer Klowns From Outer Space, to part demented (and ridiculous) Toy Story-induced nightmare.

Cage stars as a silent drifter (literally – he utters zero dialogue throughout the entire film) who gets roped into a diabolical scam by small town locals when his vehicle is abruptly disabled while passing through the middle of nowhere. He ends up in an old, rundown, Chuck E. Cheese-type joint called Willy’s Wonderland (suspiciously similar to Five Nights at Freddy’s, too), where he must fight for his life against maniacal machines that come to life. Lucky for him, there’s also a group of local teens (lead by talented newcomer Emily Tosta) who know the real secrets of Willy‘s, and are hell-bent on taking it down once and for all. This of course leads to some very surreal, A Nightmare on Elm Street-esque moments that range from legitimately creepy, to over-the-top, cringe-worthy deaths.

Character actress Beth Grant (who you may recognize from such films as Rain Man or Child’s Play 2) pulls a worthy performance as the town sheriff, and Killer Klowns… alumni Grant Cramer even makes a brief cameo. And even the soundtrack features some impressive work by Emoi (watch for the mesmerizing scene where the film’s theme song is played during an epic battle between Cage and a pinball machine).

But for every time I found myself getting completely lost in the film, something overly juvenile or absurd would usually come along and instantly snap me back into reality. I really wanted to like the film, and for the most part I suppose I did. But perhaps just a little more effort in the dialogue and acting departments would have put it that much more over the edge. If you’re simply looking for mindless entertainment though, then Willy’s Wonderland is hands down the place to go.

Rating: 2.5/5 Stars