Movie Review: Funny Games

Does watching a hoidy-toidy family of stiff shirts play “Name That Tune” with opera CDs make you wish you could watch them die? If so, Funny Games is a movie for you.

But even I, a great fan of horror and actually like some of the hardcore faire out there that started with Saw and Hostel, thought that Funny Games was a utterly awful pile of garbage.

Oh…. am I showing my hand too early? Too bad. Unlike the writer/director of Funny Games, I prefer to get to the point and not be pretentious.

Funny Games is meant to torture the audience. This much, the director has admitted. And if I didn’t know that it was a shot-by-shot remake of an Austrian film from1997, I would swear that a bunch of artsy filmmakers got together and decided to show the world what they thought torture porn should be.

The film is an exercise in bad taste and no amount of arthouse filmmaking will cover that. In fact, the arthouse nature of the movie makes things worse because it is not only unnecessarily brutal but utterly pretentious at the same time.

The whisper-thin story follows two deranged kids that torment and torture a family on vacation. And with the story and the characters – the very foundation of a film – this movie breaks down. The director ignores obvious problems, like possible escapes for the family, their inability to use text messaging or the fact that they have a freaking boat on a dock in the back of the house.

But instead of just being torture porn for the arthouse crowd, the movie gets cute… as cute as can be with the gut-wrenching torment of a family. Not too far into the film, the movie becomes self-aware. The main antagonist winks and nods at the camera, talking directly to the audience at one point, and at another uses a remote control to change the events of the movie.

It is this stuffy filmmaking meant to buck the system and bust the verity of cinema that makes Funny Games unbearable. It’s sad when the hardest part to watch in a movie is not the act and aftermath of a child murder, but rather how oppressively clever the movie is trying to be.

Director Michael Haneke must really think he’s brilliant. I can just picture him now, watching the cut of the film, giggling in the editing bay, thrilled to see how totally awesome he is at manipulating the audience.

But Haneke’s self-serving ego misses the fact that in making a movie like this, it doesn’t work on any level. It doesn’t work in the realm of torture porn or slashers because those often have a morality play in there somewhere (i.e., the kids having promiscuous sex and doing drugs are the ones who get killed first).

It doesn’t work as a revenge film because there’s no revenge.

It doesn’t work as an arthouse movie because by trying to shake its finger at the audience for being too much into sensational violence, it desperately attempts to sensationalize violence.

It doesn’t work as a serial killer movie because the serial killers have no spark behind them, being nothing more than demented wallflowers.

It doesn’t work as a traditional thriller because it has the characters doing things so mindlessly stupid that they make the dumb blonde in the mainstream thriller look like a genius.

In fact, the only thing this film is good at is the cinematography. At least it was in focus.

I heard someone say that it served as great material for the actors because it was interesting and gave them a lot to work with, and I can see how that attracted the likes of Naomi Watts and Tim Roth. But a sculptor can throw a cow pie on a potter’s wheel and have a lot to work with. But that doesn’t stop it from being a big pile of crap.

Grade: F

The Upside: None. Nothing. Nada.

The Downside: Everything. Gouge your eyes out before seeing this movie.

On the Side: To make this film as close to the original, the filmmakers used the same blueprints of the house.

Kevin Carr crawled from the primordial ooze in the early 1970s. He grew up watching movies to the point of irritation for his friends and was a font of useless movie knowledge until he decided to put that knowledge to good use. Now, Kevin is a nationally syndicated critic, heard on dozens of radio stations around the country, and his reviews appear in a variety of online outlets. Kevin is also a proud member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS), and the Central Ohio Film Critics Association (COFCA).

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