Funny Games (1997) (Unrated)

This review contains SPOILERS!
"Funny Games" is a curious movie—brutal and nasty. It urges the viewer to think, and think you do. My mind was racing, trying to keep up with the movie's levels of reality, the way it switches narratives, and how it seems to both justify and condemn the vulgar acts that are portrayed on screen.
The film comes from director Michael Haneke who, I would argue, is more known for his dramatic works; but here he creates a blend or horror, thriller, and commentary. "Funny Games" is—first of all—not funny at all. Many have deemed the film as an eccentric and satirical look at "torture porn" films. This is not what I see. It could be satirical, but in the loosest sense. "Funny Games" instead, plays out as a realistic, gritty, nasty little piece that hits you like a slap in the face.
We all hear about situations where there are innocent little families being taken captive by the bad guys. We all would like to think that we could outwit the villains...after all, they are the "bad guys"—how could they best us? Maybe that's just my own pride that thinks that, but I would like to assume that it's a universal feeling.
"Funny Games" demolishes that feeling...yet lets you keep thinking that way until the final frame which blazes amidst the punk/rock music blaring from the film.
The movie starts as a family of three are traveling to their lake house for a vacation. They stop and wave to the neighbors and ask for help getting their boat in the water.
A few minutes later, the neighbor shows up with a college aged boy and they help them out. Soon, as the wife is preparing dinner in the kitchen, another boy shows up asking for four eggs. He accidentally drops them and asks for four more, bumping the mobile phone into the sink while following the wife around. Now ticked off, the wife gives him the eggs and asks him to leave.
The family's German shepherd stops the boy, breaking the extra four eggs. He ducks back inside the house and now the other young man is there too. This duo is wrong from moment one. They help themselves to the lay of the house and get offended when asked to leave.
It becomes clear very quickly that things are going to go downhill. Golf clubs, knives, and pillow cases later the two boys make a bet with the family—in 12 hours, the family will be dead.
Let the games begin.
There is so much hope in "Funny Games"—it allows the viewer to really hope, to wish for a different circumstances...and then it denies them that.
Take for instance, the golf club. There is a pile of clubs in the corner. The bad guys have already given the dad a good whack on the leg and he is immobile the rest of the movie. There is no rush of adrenaline that helps him overcome his pain...he retches in agony. Yet you wish for someone to grab one of the clubs and defend themselves...they never do.
As the night wears on and the hours tick off, the pranks get crueler. We never really know why the two are doing the things they could just be for kicks.
The young boy escapes in the night and the skinnier of the two tracks him down and brings him back. It's not what you wish for, because you think the boy will get, Haneke keeps you guessing and hoping.
The main bad guy, the skinnier one, breaks the fourth wall frequently. He refers to the movie in a way that crosses into Kaufman...yet staying very true to the feeling of the film.
Haneke likes long shots that feel stifling—here they are in rare form. It's a thrilling, chilling, and frustrating movie.
Yet what Haneke manages to do is give the viewer a huge slice of humility. There is a reverence that you step out of the film with and that is a rarity.
It's not a pleasant film; but I think that it's a necessary one. Keep this in mind, should you see "Funny Games"—it's the thought behind the film and not the actions that makes it great.

Score: 4 out of 4 stars

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