“Funny Games” is a remake of the 1997 Austrian film by writer/director Michael Haneke. The film, at its essence, is an experiment of humans’ reactions to violence, and the audience serves as Haneke’s guinea pigs.
The film stars Naomi Watts (Ann), Tim Roth (George) and Devon Gearhart (Georgie) as an affluent family visiting their summerhouse for vacation. In the opening scene, the family is happily driving in their mini-van listening to classical music, playing family car games. Suddenly, blazing heavy metal interrupts the music and the title of the movie takes up the entire screen in red capital letters. The title sequence serves as foreshadowing of how the family’s serene lives will be abruptly disrupted.
The plot begins as the family arrives at their summer home, and notices two unfamiliar young men with another family they usually vacation with. The other family seems to act strangely, but Ann and George dismiss the behavior and head to their home.
The trouble begins when one of the two unfamiliar young men, played by Michael Pitt and Brady Corbet, comes by to borrow some eggs. Ann senses something is wrong by the young man’s strange actions, and even more so by the fact that he got onto the property which is secured by a large gate. Soon the other young man enters the house and Ann truly feels something is wrong. The suspense builds to almost a fever pitch until George loses his cool and smacks one of the boys in the face after they refuse to leave, thus beginning the ‘funny’ games.
One of the young men breaks George’s kneecap with a golf club. Then the same golf club is used to kill the family dog, and Ann is forced to find the dog’s carcass in a twisted game of hide and seek. This is only the beginning of what the family – and the audience – is forced to endure.The majority of the movie takes place inside of the house where the family is both physically and psychologically tortured. Ann and George beg to know why this is happening to them, and what the young men’s motivations are. Part of the torture is that neither the family nor the audience is ever told.
Haneke’s ‘experiment’ is a violent film, however much of the actual violence takes place off screen, so reactions are to the post-effects of violence. Some people may walk out of this movie, others may call it “art house torture porn” in the same genre as movies like “Saw” and “Hostel”.
However, others, such as this critic, will see it as a dramatic satire of not only the torture porn genre, but of Americans’ opinions of violence as a whole. The film poses the questions, is violence any more acceptable when there is a reason given for it? Does violence become less acceptable when no real reason is given?
“Funny Games” may be too violent for some, and fans of “Saw” and “Hostel” may find it too talky or not gory enough. For movie fans looking for a well-written and acted horror movie that contains real suspense and not just loud noises in the dark, then “Funny Games” is recommended.
The movie’s ending is not a happy one, but you may find yourself smiling at it.