Funny Games Review (2007)

by "Penguin" Pete Trbovich on August 25th, 2018 | |

Funny Games was directed by Michael Haneke (who also directed Benny’s Video) and stars Naomi Watts (from The Ring), Tim Roth (from Dark Water) and Michael Pitt. It’s about a pair of sadistic home invaders tormenting a family, which meta-fictional post-modern elements.

Let the games begin…

Funny Games ReviewYou’re Probably On The Movie’s Side, Aren’t You?

Funny Games is one of those meta-horror concept movies that’s impossible to review without spoiling. So the Present Author will pretend to warn readers about upcoming spoilers like any regular movie.

But seriously, nobody finds this movie on chance and watches it cold. You hear about it by reputation. Then you look it up, and you’re intrigued and curious about how the premise plays out. Then when you actually watch it, chances are you’re unimpressed, and yet you cannot complain because it was exactly what you expected. Funny Games is a shaggy dog story where your friend warns you and warns you that it’s not really funny, it’ll just make you groan, and finally you beg to hear it. Five minutes later you’re saying to yourself, “Thank God I never have to sit through THAT again!”

Told you! The Austrian 1997 version is better known, but the 2007 remake is literally shot-for-shot, in the hopes that somebody would track down both versions and have twice their time wasted. So we’re rolling with that, because thank God I never have to sit through THAT again! Also because it has Tim Roth and Naomi Watts, so if it gets too boring in spots you can pretend Quentin Tarantino and David Lynch are collaborating on a movie called “Reservoir Dogs on Mulholland Drive.”

Less Than The Sum Of Its Parts

George (Tim Roth), Ann (Naomi Watts), and their kid Georgie (Devon Gearhart) are Team Home, living in some upper class twit neighborhood where every home has a golf course out front and a yacht harbor out back. Peter (Brady Corbet) and Paul (Michael Pitt) are Team Invasion, who go house to house making people miserable for no reason. Team Invasion spreads the misery to Team Home, gaining access with a polite ruse of borrowing some eggs before harassing and tormenting Team Home. Finally Team Invasion ties up Team Home and subjects them to petty cruelties before offing them.

What’s so special about this? Peter and Paul have magical movie-manipulation powers, so they can address the camera, rewind the movie, and otherwise erase the fourth wall when they’re not leaning on it. All this is done with a sickeningly smug, condescending attitude towards Team Audience, who are cast in the role of “filthy degenerates who like watching violence.” Look at you, pathetic hobgoblins! Aren’t you ashamed of yourselves?

Wait, That’s Not Why I Watch Horror Movies!

If you decide to play along and accept this movie’s judgment upon thee, I suppose it’s fun for the kind of masochist who only goes through being whipped because they don’t sell endorphin beer yet. But for the rest of us, hang on, I’ve got my top ten list of favorite horror movies, with the reasons listed, and none of them are “because I get off on splattered blood for its own sake.” Years observing horror culture tells me I’m not alone.

That’s the thing, as soon as you marshal the mildest defense against Funny Games’ McCarthyist condemnation of your type, its whole message melts away like a late-night infomercial. Now here come the freshman campus critters, chewing their Cliff’s Notes copies of Atlas Shrugged, to tell us what an “important” movie this is. Because it’s a commentary on media violence, ignorant of Natural Born Killers having done a better job. Or because it’s an examination of the relationship between the horror genre and its fans, ignorant of the fact that The Cabin in the Woods would come along and do that better, too. Or because the movie’s intentionally trolling you and succeeds, assuming that it “got” you, when actually it just leaves you with a completely blank look on your face.

Game Over: Final Score

Funny Games still has something to show for its effort. The cast is very nearly sparkling, with Roth and Watts giving us a fantasy couple to write fan fiction about, while Corbet and Pitt give us the two most lovably roguish assholes we could ask for in these roles. It all looks like a movie, with each shot perfectly composed – it better be, since the director got a free practice run. But we award it half the stars for being half a movie, and tell you exactly where those missing stars went…

  • * It could have been funnier. Or even just fun.
  • * The “games,” believe it or not, could have been more sadistic. We live in a post-Saw / post-Hostel era here, and a golf club is the best you can do?
  • * It could have used real backstory for anybody at all. The characters have all the depth of Lego figures.
  • * It could have been a deeper deconstruction of the horror genre. Perhaps Peter and Paul would play better at Crystal Lake.
  • * It could have been a faster pace. The movie punishes you for having to sit through it.

Nevertheless, Funny Games is an essay on horror films we all have to endure exactly once, prerequisite viewing before you get your Media Studies credit. It’s good for us, like eating kale. It even goes through us just like kale, too.

The Verdict:

What do You think of Funny Games? (post a comment)

What do others think?

http://www.penguinpetes.com/

Writer, artist, prophet, cult leader. Take good care of my memes. I’ve raised them since they were daydreams.

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