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How has 'Five Nights at Freddy's’ become the highest-grossing horror film of 2023?

How did one of 2023’s worst films become a box office smash hit?
How did one of 2023’s worst films become a box office smash hit? Copyright Universal Pictures
Copyright Universal Pictures
By David Mouriquand
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Blumhouse has released two of 2023's worst movies... But how has the most recent dud become a box office smash hit?

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After two weeks in theatres, Emma Tammi's video game adaptation has made a killing at the box office and has become the highest-grossing horror movie of the year.

Indeed, Five Nights at Freedy’s, which reportedly had a modest $25 million (€23.3 million) budget, has garnered $217 million (€202 million) as a global box office total, following an $80 million (€74,8 million) opening weekend in the US.

The live-action adaptation of the popular 2014 independent video game, about a haunted pizzeria, beat out titles such as the terrible The Nun II ($86 million in US), the passable Scream VI ($108 million in US) and the overrated M3GAN ($95 million in US) to position itself as the biggest film in the horror genre this year.

It even has surpassed the entire global haul of 2022’s Halloween Ends ($104 million) and will soon overtake 2021’s Halloween Kills ($133 million) - which previously ranked as the biggest hybrid releases from Universal and streaming platform Peacock.

The film's prime Halloween release date worked in its favour, as it’s also the biggest opening weekend ever for Universal and Peacock’s hybrid releases, beating the Halloween slasher sequels.

As if that wasn’t impressive enough, Five Nights At Freddy’s has scored the second-largest debut of all time for a video game adaptation, behind this year’s The Super Mario Bros. Movie ($146.3 million).

What is Five Nights At Freddy’s about and is it any good?

Five Nights At Freddy's
Five Nights At Freddy'sUniversal Pictures

Five Nights At Freddy’s sees Mike (Josh Hutcherson) accepting a job as the new security guard at the abandoned Freddy Fazbear's Pizza, and discovering that the location is populated by haunted animatronic mascots that roam the business at night. And have a penchant for murder. He must now fight to survive his late shift and protect his sister Abby (Piper Rubio), who seems to have a connection to the sinister dolls. 

The movie's success is hardly surprising, considering the popularity of the video game and its large built-in fanbase - which minimises all financial risk. However, is it any good? 

I enjoyed it.

I say I enjoyed it, I mean it was tolerable.

I say it was tolerable, I mean that basting myself in a particularly delicious BBQ sauce and throwing myself into a lion enclosure while insulting the mother of the most bloodthirsty and hungry Panthera would be preferrable than to call this a) good and b) a horror movie.

It's a bafflingly incoherent dud made by people who clearly have no decent appreciation for the source material, one which centres more on a character who has the charisma of a plimsoll and spends an inordinate amount of screentime sleeping (really), rather than on the fun part, ie: the slasher monsters. The violence is toned down to child-friendly levels – meaning there are no real scares to speak of - and it thereby never wins its spurs as a horror film. Not to mention that its plot holes could be identified by a particularly distracted toddler taking its time to roll its eyes at the endless self-serious expositional dumps. 

To say this dumb, dull and cynical cash grab is a missed opportunity for some gonzo fun is an insult to missed opportunities.

Basically, it’s ‘not a lot’ divided by ‘f*ck all.’

And yet it makes a fortune. 

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Hardly dignified, is it?

Will there be a sequel?

Mike in Five Nights At Freddy's
Mike in Five Nights At Freddy'sUniversal Pictures

A sequel to Five Nights at Freddy's hasn't been announced yet, but the fact that the movie is sitting on a $217 million global box office total elevates the chances of a follow up.

No one needs it, but the fact that it has defied the disappointing PG-13 rating, poor reviews, and a simultaneous streaming release does make its success impressive.

Plus, Blumhouse is always keen on sequels, with continuations of M3GAN, The Exorcist: Believer (another one of this year's very worst cinematic outings) and The Black Phone currently in the works at the studio.

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So, Blumhouse and Universal might just have found their newest franchise in the abandoned pizzeria.

We’d personally rather get ripped from limb to limb by one of the animatronics than to watch something even moderately less inept than the first instalment.

Five Nights at Freddy's is currently playing in theatres and available for streaming on Peacock in the US.

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