Weekend film reviews: ‘Five Nights at Freddy’s,’ ‘Pain Hustlers’

Written by Amy Ta and Danielle Chiriguayo, produced by Sarah Sweeney

“Five Nights at Freddy's” centers around the night security officer at a Chuck E. Cheese-like pizza chain. Credit: YouTube.

The latest film releases are Five Nights at Freddy's, Pain Hustlers, The Holdovers, and Fingernails. Weighing in are Amy Nicholson, host of the podcast Unspooled and film reviewer for the New York Times, and Shawn Edwards, film critic at Fox 4 News and co-founder of the African American Film Critics Association. 

Five Nights at Freddy's

Based on the indie horror video game series of the same name, this centers around the night security officer at a Chuck E. Cheese-like pizza chain. It stars Josh Hutcherson.

Nicholson: “This is one of those films where it feels a lot smarter than you expect it to to feel. And then it absolutely falls apart when you bother trying to analyze what's happening on the screen at all. … That's really not that different from the true corporate origin story of the character Chuck E. Cheese. … His real full name is Charles Entertainment Cheese. And also he … grew up in an orphanage called St. Marinara’s. And Chuck E. Cheese does not know his parents, and he does not know his real birthday. And that is why as an adult mouse, he lives at a pizza place where he can celebrate birthdays every day. 

… So this movie itself, the way that it's cast is super confusing. … The ages are so weird. … But this movie … is a cut above a slasher. … Everything in this movie does not hold up as soon as the movie is over. But it's fine from scene to scene as you're going along.”

Edwards: “The animatronics are creepy, but they're not creepy because of the film. They're just creepy in real life. … If you're gonna put animatronics and make them the villain of a horror movie, go over the top with it. Make them more creepy than what you can actually get at a real life Chuck E. Cheese. 

… My biggest problem was this film plays against brand. Blumhouse is known for movies like Paranormal Activity, The Purge, Insidious, and Get Out. And this didn't really play like that. It's less of a horror film and more of a thriller.” 

Pain Hustlers

This satire follows Emily Blunt as a single mom who works at a strip club, where she meets a pharmaceutical rep (Chris Evans) and starts working with him, hoping for a bigger paycheck and better life. It’s loosely based on a true story. 

Edwards: “If movies were sold at McDonald's, this is the type of film people would buy on the regular because it's very generic. It’s easy to digest and it really doesn't take a lot to understand what's going on. But that's not this film's biggest problem. This film's biggest problem is it’s really, really late to the party. There have been so many movies and TV series and documentaries that have explored and examined the opioid crisis in America to where this is traveling down a road that many times has been traveled before. This has been covered to death, and they do nothing new with this material.” 

Nicholson: “I always liked these movies because they tend to be about how low people will sink to make a buck [and] how capitalism cheapens everybody. All of these employees are saying, ‘We're doing what is right and mostly legal. It's legal up until you get caught.’ And the best parts of these movies are always the scenes of greed and excess, which I think The Wolf of Wall Street really set the standard here and this film chases after it. 

But this particular story is so much harder to totally pull off because people died. People are still dying. And I think the director, David Yates, has a real conscience about that. And he's trying his best, especially in the second part of the film, to balance the fun with the horror, but that is a really hard sell.”

The Holdovers


From Oscar-winning director Alexander Payne, this film set in the early 1970s follows students who have to stay behind at a New England boarding school during the holiday break. Paul Giamatti stars as the cranky teacher who’s responsible for watching them. 

Nicholson: “Giamatti is playing the history teacher who's definitely the least popular teacher at the entire school with the students and the faculty. …  He gets into this central relationship with one of the kids who’s stuck there for the holidays, this kid played by Dominic Sessa, who's also super smart and also kind of a social idiot. ... Alex Payne doesn't cheat how the connection between these two men deepen. It's really natural, which means they're never going to fully spill their guts to each other. They're never gonna go for that big moment of trying to make the audience cry, which I really respect.

… This film starts off brash and goofy, and then it settles down into the things it wants to talk about — privilege and failure and education and complacency and making assumptions about people.” 

Edwards: “It feels like the 70s and looked like the 70s and it sounded like the 70s, and the performances were true to that era. To me, it was a fascinating movie about heartbreak, grief, loneliness, isolation, privilege, trauma and mental health. … The standout for me was Da'Vine Joy Randolph because she actually elevated a character that could have easily been one note, and totally derailed the entire film. And kudos to Dominic Sessa because this is his feature film debut, and he holds his own with Giamatti and Randolph very well.” 


Riz Ahmed and Jesse Buckley star in this science-fiction romance as workers at a compatibility testing facility called The Love Institute. 

Edwards: “The thing that frustrated me the most is: I wanted to know more about this technology. I wanted to know how they came up with it, how it actually worked. And they really don't explore that. But what they do very well is … this examination of relationships. … The way that it works is really on the performances delivered by Jesse Buckley, and Riz Ahmed , and Jeremy Allen White. … It was nuanced. It was realistic. But the problem is: It may be all a bit too quiet and a bit too slow. And it was just a lot unexplained when you have to talk about their relationships in relation to this institute.”

Nicholson: “One thing that this film cannot decide … is ripping off your fingernails a real genuine test that proves that you're in love or … is everybody believing wholeheartedly in a test that maybe is flawed? And the film itself ironically doesn't want to commit one way or another.” 



  • Amy Nicholson - host of the podcast Unspooled and film reviewer for the New York Times - @theAmyNicholson
  • Shawn Edwards - film critic at Fox 4 News and co-founder of the African American Film Critics Association