Michael Haneke’s American remake of his own film is own of the most biting horror films to come out in a long time.
Funny Games is an interesting film because it seems so familiar, but does things in interesting ways. The story at its core is another home-invasion thriller as we follow Ann, (Naomi Watts) George, (Tim Roth) and their young son Georgie (Devon Gearheart) are visiting their summer home. The couple is immediately bothered by two young men Paul (Michael Pitt) and Peter (Brady Corbet). These two young men are wanting to play some funny games—namely humiliating and torturing (physically and psychologically) the family. Does this sound familiar? For any horror aficionado it probably does, but you’ll have to trust me on this one being quite different.
Michael Haneke’s films seem to present a central thesis and support that point throughout the whole film. By this I mean we have one thing being pushed aggressively and relentlessly. The film is meta, and Paul will directly question the viewer as to what they want to see. Are we rooting for the family, or are we just anxiously awaiting the gore? We as the audience get what we want, but the long-shots, brutal realism, and overall cruelty make it feel different. This is not entertainment, this is sadism—and the film forces a deep discomfort on the viewer.
The 2007 film is actually a remake of a 1997 version, also directed by Haneke. He wanted to expand the film to an American audience, so this is basically a shot-by-shot remake. Which version of the film is better is hotly debated, and I think most think the 1997 version is superior. I think it is whichever one you see first, or whichever one you saw most recently. I like both, I think each has something unique to it. The American version has excellent actors, in particular Watts and Pitt are simply marvelous.
There is a lot to talk about after watching the film, but it is a surprisingly difficult film to talk about if you haven’t seen it. “Ah yeah that part where there’ll all sitting on the couch and talking—intense”—doesn’t exactly ring as a great endorsement, but it should! I have actually delayed writing this review because I want to avoid mentioning any spoilers or oversell the movie.
The technical aspects of the film are excellent. Haneke is known for very long shots, and this film is no exception. We are forced to stay in the uncomfortable moments long after most films would have given a reprieve. Keeping the audience in these dark moments transitions violence from entertainment to the realistic heinous act that it is. Horror films are indicted here, but the critical glare is more pointed at audiences who celebrate and demand gore, rape, and murder to be passed out like candy. Don’t get me wrong, I love horror, but this film forces us to consider what we are really wanting to see.
If you’re looking for an uncomfortable and thoughtful film, this one is worth watching. I highly recommend it, and this movie is one of my favorites. 10/10