ARROW NOTE: Being that like Diary of the Dead, Funny Games didn't open in my neck of the crack house, here's JimmyO's review of it. When I'll get to see it, I'll review it.PLOT: Michael Haneke remakes his own 1997 German film about a nice family taking a vacation in their cabin by a lake. Ann and George and their young son Georgie notice that their neighbors have a couple of young men as guests. Soon, the gentlemen show up at their home asking to borrow some eggs. But when they do not leave, the family realizes that their vacation is about to turn into a nightmare as the two men put them through a series of “games” that are both mental and physical torture.
There is nothing more heart wrenching than watching the news and seeing a report of a family murdered in cold blood. Now, if it were a Hollywood movie, some innocent would bravely fight back and barely survive while overcoming incredible odds. But does that really happen that often? When do we hear about that? Usually no, because truth be told, when something like this happens, there usually are no heroes. Keep in mind I said “usually”. And so Michael Haneke seems to have issues with those tales of violence and bloodshed. His 1997 German film FUNNY GAMES was about just that, a couple of psychotic men taking a family hostage with some murderous actions occurring. But this time, Michael returns with what is basically the same film, only with a couple of actors you may have heard of. Naomi Watts and Tim Roth play the put upon victims, while Michael Pitt shows up as a very polite psychopath. Also along for the ride is young Devon Gearhart as a child in danger, and Brady Corbet as Pitt’s creepy sidekick.
Please don’t read the following paragraph if you don’t want any spoilers. I do not necessarily give anything away, but some of the story will be pretty obvious if you haven’t seen the original film. It would be wrong to say that I enjoyed this film. I didn’t. In fact, after leaving it, I heard on the news that a six year-old boy was shot in the head in a Ford Explorer. This is real folks. Murder is not cool and hip and usually doesn’t have a killer soundtrack. It is awful and hideous. But the truth is, FUNNY GAMES has no intention of making murder clever and fun. This is an uncomfortable watch as the couple and their child are forced into playing some deadly games. At one point, Michael Pitt’s Paul, looks at the camera and ask if the audience thinks they should continue playing. Now I will guarantee, many people in the audience will watch this and have a very strong reaction to how little the family fight back. With that, I bring up again, how often do you hear about that in the news? Usually, it is quite simply that those who suffer at the hands of madmen oftentimes don’t make it out alive. Occasionally it happens… but it’s never a happy ending.
Now the question is, why remake this film? In fact, Mr. Haneke simply remade his original film with English speaking actors virtually without changing a thing. I think the only thing that changed is there seems to be a bit more money in the latest version. It is still the same family and the same strangers playing games. Although I liked what the new cast had to offer, especially Brady Corbet who was also quite good in MYSTERIOUS SKIN. He is a perfect counterpart to Pitt’s arrogant monster. And yes, they are monsters. While I liked all the actors, somehow the recognition factor did seem to make the characters less believable than in the original. Yet even with that, very little has changed here. And what is most shocking, there is little to no on screen violence. The most terrifying thing happens while we watch someone making a sandwich. Yet it still leaves a much darker impression on the audience than you would expect. In the said sequence, when one of the characters doesn’t play along, we see a long, drawn out scene of what happens afterwards. Not a lot of on-screen violence, but a whole lot of emotional and mental cruelty going on here.
I guess this remake exists purely as a way to get American audiences to actually give the movie a chance. Oftentimes, your average filmgoer will not sit through a foreign film. The same thing happened with LA FEMME NIKITA and POINT OF NO RETURN. But this new version of terror is so similar to the original, and it never feels like it is “lightened up” or given humor or anything else that Haneke seemed to be avoiding. So in a certain way, I respect his decision to remake the film with that idea in mind. He didn’t wuss out and create a sweet, friendlier version. Just a more recognizable version without bad dubbing or subtitles (yet I still prefer the original, subtitles and all). But with all this said, I still didn’t necessarily find this entertaining, in fact it is often down right atrocious. It feels like a more polite version of HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER. But the truth is, I couldn’t get this out of my head for awhile. It is beautifully shot and the actors do very nice work. And of course, the classical music mixed with death metal is a very powerful tool. So with that, I recommend this film. Even if it is a bit of a depressing and disturbing watch. My rating 8/10 -- JimmyO