Funny Games (2008)

Michael Haneke

Anna - Naomi Watts
George - Tim Roth
Georgie - Devon Gearhart
Peter - Brady Corbet
Paul - Michael Pitt

Score - 3 Howls Outta 4

FUNNY GAMES is about a normal and happy middle-class family who go to their summer vacation home for some R & R. While Anna (Naomi Watts) cooks dinner and George and Georgie (Tim Roth and Devon Gearhart) set up a sailboat, Anna receives a visit from spiffy-dressed Peter (Brady Corbet). Peter is polite and wants to borrow a few eggs, which Anna easily hands over to him. However, Peter drops the eggs and apologizes. Then Peter drops Anna's cell phone into a sink of water, destroying it for the time being. Frustrated, Anna hands Peter more eggs so he can leave. Instead, the eggs drop again.

Peter is soon joined by his friend Paul (Michael Pitt), who is dressed the same way and is just as polite as Peter. However, he's much more creepier than Peter which Anna quickly picks up. She demands the two to leave, but they don't budge. Even when George and Georgie enter the house and ask them to leave, they still won't do it. George slaps Paul in the face, setting off a chain of events that make it clear that Paul and Peter are visiting this family with evil intentions. Apparently, the two want to play really sadistic games with them - betting that the family won't survive after 9 a.m. the next day.

FUNNY GAMES is a shot-by-shot remake of a 1997 foreign-language film for an American audience by the same director, Michael Haneke. Haneke, by doing this, is attempting to show the American audience how violence in media has made for acceptable entertainment through his story. It's ironic that the film is not entertaining at all. In fact, it's very unpleasant to watch and it's definitely not for everyone.

I had a hard time trying to come up with what to say for this review. I mean, FUNNY GAMES is not a bad film at all. Michael Haneke directs the film with a lot of style, even breaking the 4th wall at times just so the sadists [mainly Paul] can speak to the audience as if we're part of this horrible situation. While we sympathize with the family that's being tortured, in a way we're also becoming familiar with the villains as well. And that's a very uncomfortable feeling to have. What's also uncomfortable is the fact that Haneke enjoys using really long takes that sort of grate on you after a while. I think the one I can remember vividly is when the NASCAR broadcast on television is heard while the victims attempt to escape the horror. It's like 5 minutes of that one take, without edits or transitions, making you wish Haneke would focus on something else right away. It's apparently what Haneke wants you to feel because relaxing and feeling safe is not an option. Even when the film is really quiet, you still feel uncomfortable because you know something bad is gonna happen. It's an interesting method of directing a film, but it works wonders. Haneke definitely left me speechless by the end of it.

And the acting is also good here. Naomi Watts is incredible as Anna. She's vulnerable and she really lets herself go through humiliating situations [like get forcefully undressed by Peter and Paul to prove she doesn't have rolls], yet she continues to fight even when she knows it's in vain. It was hard to watch what those two bastards did to her character, knowing it was all for nothing. Tim Roth is more of a background player here, not doing much at all really. I personally though he was a pussy but that's just me, I guess. I guess it was good for the material given. Devon Gearhart was good as young Georgie. He was a little overzealous at times with his performance, but he played the role of a scared little boy well. Brady Corbet was a little off as Peter. His acting was a bit weird to me. However, Michael Pitt was dead on as Paul. He loves roles like this and it shows because he made Paul seem extremely dangerous.

But this film can't be rated because of how well the acting is or the nice direction. This is not entertainment. It's an experience and not a pleasant one at that. I personally wanted to turn this film off when things really started to feel uncomfortable, yet I didn't and wanted to see what would happen. What does that say about me? I didn't enjoy watching this at all, yet I couldn't stop looking at my television screen. And that "rewound" portion in the film really depressed me. I was expecting the Hollywood ending to this home invasion film, but Haneke gave me the total opposite. It's like one big tease. You want to see the bad guys get theirs in the end, yet it's not that easy and it frustrates you. You know how it's supposed to go, yet Haneke doesn't want you to have that satisfaction. Like Gage said in PET SEMETARY, "No fair. No fair."

I really don't know what to say about FUNNY GAMES. I don't think you can actually rate a film like this and justify it. It's gonna be different for everyone and it'll continuously be debated upon. While a really well-made film that told a well enough story, I still can't recommend a film like this. I think if you want to see an anti-Hollywood film that isn't gonna give you what you expect, then rent this and see for yourself. But at the end of FUNNY GAMES, I felt empty yet full at the same time. It's a film I won't be forgetting any time soon. I've never seen the original 1997 version and I honestly don't want to. Seeing FUNNY GAMES once is enough for me.

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