As a critic who does indeed have their reviews fed into Rotten Tomatoes, I do tend to reject the idea that “critics know nothing, and only audience scores matter.” This really is not reflective of reality, as most of the time, critic and audience scores are pretty similar, especially in genres where you might not think that’s true like superhero films. There are outliers, sure, but on the whole? We’re not so different, you and I.
However, you want to see a real outlier? Look no further than Five Nights at Freddy’s, which boasts one of the largest gaps between critic reviews and audience/box office success in recent memory.
The stats here:
- Rotten Tomatoes: Critic Score – 28%, Audience Score – 89%
- Metacritic: Critic Score – 3.3, Audience score – 8.1
- Box Office: $132 million global opening weekend, highest for Blumhouse, highest for Halloween weekend, highest for a woman-director horror film, one of the highest openers for a horror film…ever.
I’ve said previously it’s rare that there has been a film made less for critics and more for fans in a way that has turned out this well in memory. We can look at other well-performing films critics hated and fans liked but the gaps aren’t this wide.
The Lion King had a 52% versus an 88% for critic/audience score. Transformers Age of Extinction: 18% to 50%. Jurassic World Dominion: 29% to 77%. Fifty Shades of Grey, 25% to 41%. Twilight, 49% to 72%.
In most cases, we might get a blockbuster movie reviewed badly by critics, but fans mostly like it and it does solid at the box office. Or critics love a movie, fans love a movie, and it does great. If critics love a movie and fans hate it, you might get some awards, but probably not a big box office haul.
That’s why Five Nights at Freddy’s is so unique. Critics hate it. It’s not just the Rotten Tomatoes score, the 33 on Metacritic means its average score is akin to a 1.5/5 stars or a 3/10. And in contrast fans love it. Those are extremely high audience scores for those platforms, and the box office haul has instantly set enough records where an entire FNAF movie series is being mapped out as we speak.
I understand why this is happening. Essentially no “accredited” critics on places like IMDB or Metacritic are in the target age group for this movie, though given that it is a horror movie, it’s not exactly like reviewing the latest Disney/Pixar feature for them. Rather, FNAF is an entire culture, a culture that really no critics are a part of, which you can’t say about like, The Lion King or Twilight. Even keeping all this in mind I probably couldn’t give FNAF more than a 6/10 purely as a horror movie, even if I thought it was pretty okay. But for fans? I haven’t heard many not raving about it, and it will indeed be one of the biggest box office success stories of the year right alongside Oppenheimer and Barbie (which of course, have exponentially bigger budgets).
Yes, I do think critic reviews and Rotten Tomatoes scores and such are useful. They are pretty good indicators most of the time. But for Five Night’s at Freddy’s, this is a unique dichotomy between and target audience and a critic class entirely removed from it that has produced these huge splits and wild results.