Five Nights at Freddy’s (4K UHD Review)

  • Reviewed by: Stephen Bjork
  • Review Date: Dec 26, 2023
  • Format: 4K Ultra HD
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Five Nights at Freddy’s (4K UHD Review)


Emma Tammi

Release Date(s)

2023 (December 12, 2023)


Blumhouse/Universal (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment)
  • Film/Program Grade: C
  • Video Grade: A
  • Audio Grade: A
  • Extras Grade: D+

Five Nights at Freddy's (4K UHD)

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Given the popularity of creator Scott Cawthorn’s long-running Five Nights at Freddy’s video game series, a cinematic adaptation was inevitable, and it was perhaps equally inevitable that it would be produced under the aegis of Jason Blum. (If any choice of source material had Blumhouse written all over it, it’s Five Nights at Freddy’s.) Yet the structure of the games didn’t necessarily provide a clear shape for a feature film to follow. While there’s been some variance as the series has developed, the core gameplay of the original installment trapped players inside the security office of Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza at night, being constantly threatened by the pizzeria’s animatronic characters but with limited means to defend themselves. It’s survival horror, but not of the walking simulator variety where players explore different environments and uncover clues and/or logs that provide the story elements. As the Five Nights at Freddy’s franchise has developed, more and more backstory has been provided via audio logs and hidden minigames, but for a film that’s focusing primarily on the events of the first game, something had to give.

The solution devised by Cawthorn, Seth Cuddeback, and co-writer/director Emma Tammi was to add a framing device that opened everything up and explored the life of the security guard Mike in greater detail. In this version, Mike Schmidt (Josh Hutcherson) is struggling to care for his younger sister Abby (Piper Rubio) after the loss of their parents. His aunt Jane (Mary Stuart Masterson) is trying to gain custody of Abby, and since Mike has a miserably bad employment record, she has a wedge to use against him. His career counselor (Matthew Lillard) sets Mike up with a job of last resort as a nighttime security guard at the dilapidated grounds of the long-closed Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza, and Mike reluctantly agrees to take the position despite the fact that it complicates his ability to care for the troubled Abby. While there, he meets a friendly local police officer (Elizabeth Lail), and together with Abby, the three of them will discover much about the secret workings of Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza—and just maybe, the secret source of the traumatic incident that has scarred Mike since his childhood.

As Mike’s journey progresses, Five Nights at Freddy’s does introduce some homages to the original gameplay elements, although many of those are little more than Easter eggs. He has various tools at his disposal, but they can only be used in limited ways to slow down or distract the pursuing horrors, not destroy them—and those tools don’t always work on bosses, either. There are also plenty of cheap jump scares along the way, and while those may not be to everyone’s taste, they’re the bread-and-butter of horror gaming. (Quite literally so in the case of Five Nights at Freddy’s, where they’re an actual gameplay mechanic.) The story also introduces some of the trial-and-error repetition of video games in terms of how Mikes’ dreams end up developing.

Of course, all of those details are ancillary to the horrors themselves, and Tammi chose to bring those to life through practical means. While far too many modern blockbusters claim to have shot everything practically despite the fact that they’re still awash in CGI (Mission: Impossible—Dead Reckoning Part One, Top Gun: Maverick, and Fast X, we’re looking at you), that appears to be genuinely true of Five Nights at Freddy’s. Freddy Fazbear, Bonnie, Chica, Foxy, and Mr. Cupcake (to say nothing of the real villain at the end) were all brought to life with full-scale animatronics created by the Jim Henson Creature Shop. There’s still some digital sweetening at times, but the bulk of the effects really were done practically, with CGI being used mostly to remove wires and other types of rigging that supported the characters. The Jim Henson Creature Shop hasn’t lost its touch in the digital era, either—the various animatronics here are definitely creepy in their own ways, but they’re still faithful to the original designs from the games.

Just how much all of that will appeal to fans and non-fans alike is an interesting question. In the end, Five Nights at Freddy’s is an odd duck in that it may not be of interest to people who haven’t played the games, but it will inevitably disappoint some fans who won’t be happy about a few of the changes that were made. Yet the inherently uncinematic nature of the game made some of those changes inevitable—this isn’t an Alan Wake, Amnesia, or Outlast style game that would more naturally lend itself to a traditional narrative framing device like the one that had to be created for Five Nights at Freddy’s. Something had to give, and give it did. That certainly didn’t stop people from showing up, at least for the opening weekend, where Five Nights at Freddy’s landed at #1 with a dramatic $80 million gross. That’s impressive for a film budgeted at $20 million, but its steep 76% drop for its second weekend might indicate that audiences were less than thrilled. Still, that’s more than enough box office to guarantee that Blumhouse sequel factory will kick into high gear, so we’ll see how the next installment turns out—and if audiences will turn out as well.

Cinematographer Lyn Moncrief captured Five Nights at Freddy’s digitally in ARRIRAW format at 6.5K resolution using ARRI ALEXA 65 cameras, framed at 2.0:1 for its theatrical release. While there’s no information available regarding whether post-production work was completed as a 2K or a 4K Digital Intermediate, it was very likely the latter—although there’s a catch to that. Much of the overall design of Five Nights at Freddy’s is intentionally dark, dingy, and drab, and that means that even if there is real 4K worth of fine detail in the image, those details are often barely perceptible. The daylight scenes set outside the pizzeria and Mike’s dream sequences are much better resolved, however. Regardless, the image is generally razor-sharp and clear even during the most visually muddy of moments. The same caveats extend to the High Dynamic Range grade as well (only HDR10 has been included on the disc). There are some brief splashes of vivid color whenever the signs are turned on at Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza, but drab grays, browns, and teals dominate the rest of the proceedings. The contrast range is strong during the relatively few brightly lit scenes, but the darker action in the pizzeria looks a little more flat, with slightly elevated black levels. That’s likely due to them being captured at high ISO under dimly lit conditions on the set. None of this makes for a particularly dazzling 4K presentation, but to be fair, Five Nights at Freddy’s was never meant to be dazzling, just dark and creepy. No one is going to pull this disc out to use as demo material, but it’s still accurate to the intentions of the filmmakers.

Audio is offered in English Dolby Atmos, Spanish 7.1 Dolby Digital Plus, and French 5.1 Dolby Digital, with English SDH, Spanish, and French subtitles. While the visual design of Five Nights at Freddy’s might be restrained, the Atmos mix isn’t. Subtlety goes out the window as Freddy Fazbear and his gang go on the rampage, and there’s plenty of deep bass punch whenever they come a-knocking. The cheap jump scares are reinforced by loud audio stingers coming from any and all directions, but there’s also some interesting panning effects like when Mr. Cupcake is crawling through the vents around the security office. The games were all about immersion, giving players the feeling that things were constantly going on around them despite the limited primary locations, and the sound design here reinforces that idea.

Universal’s 4K Ultra HD release of Five Nights at Freddy’s is a two-disc set that includes a Blu-ray with a 1080p copy of the film and a slipcover, with a Digital Code on a paper insert tucked inside. (Since Universal and Disney just can’t resist meaningless branding on their UHDs, this one has been labeled as a Night Shift Edition.) The following extras are included on both the UHD and the Blu-ray, but note that they’re in 4K SDR on the UHD, and standard HD on the BD:

  • Five Nights at Freddy’s: From Game to Big Screen (7:20)
  • Killer Animatronics (5:51)
  • Five Nights in Three Dimensions (4:23)

They’re all pretty typical EPK fare, but they do offer some interesting glimpses behind-the-scenes that show just how much really was accomplished practically on the set. They’re all pretty self-explanatory: From Game to Big Screen gives an overview of the process of adapting the game’s structure into a cinematic narrative; Killer Animatronics focuses on the Jim Henson Creature Shop animatronics; and In Three Dimensions describes the sets and production design. There are interviews with Emma Tammi, Jason Blum, Lyn Moncrief, Josh Hutcherson, Matthew Lillard, Piper Rubio, Elizabeth Lail, plus other members of the cast and crew, although many of them are literally just blink-and-you’ll-miss-them flashes. True to the viral marketing nature of the modern era, there are a few interviews with YouTube influencers who were invited on set to see how well the design work matched that of the game. (Some of them were given cameo appearances in the film as well.) There’s not much here that’s going to be of use to anyone who’s not at least marginally familiar with the games, but fans will appreciate the way that everyone helpfully points out a few of the Easter eggs that are glimpsed throughout the film.

That’s a surprisingly slim set of extras for a film as successful (and profitable) as Five Nights at Freddy’s, and this 4K presentation won’t be to everyone’s taste any more than the film itself is. If you’re only looking for razzle-dazzle in 4K, you may be disappointed, but as long as you understand what the intentions were for Five Nights at Freddy’s, you’re in good hands here.

- Stephen Bjork

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