March 7, 2008 by  

Funny Games


Funny Games

Georgie (Devon Gearheart) tries to protect himself from a sadistic individual in "Funny Games."

Starring: Naomi Watts, Tim Roth, Michael Pitt
Directed by: Michael Haneke (“Cache”)
Written by: Michael Haneke (“Cache”)

There are so many reasons why someone would want to remake their own film shot-for-shot after the original premiered 11 years ago. For German director/writer Michael Haneke, one of those reasons could be that in 1997, “Funny Games” was seen by only a handful of art house aficionados looking for a horror picture they could see and still tell their elitist friends about.

There is no reason Haneke shouldn’t feel pleased with the warped story he conjured up back then. If this was the only way he thought he could earn a second chance to get it out to them masses and take advantage of the torture porn fare that is so popular today, by all means have at it.

Haneke’s film, however, is more multi-layered that the psychotic games Jigsaw plays with his victims in the “Saw” series and much more terrorizing from a humanistic perspective than any number of hillbilly mutant killers living in “The Hills Have Eyes.”

When you aim to terrify someone from a psychological point of view, you have to be spot on. With “Funny Games,” Haneke delivers an obvious statement about America’s love of violence all the while playing hypocrite to his own beliefs by adding to the genre in uninspiring fashion.

Still, it’s a chilling tale, which follows two affluent young men who take a family hostage in their vacation home and make them play sadistic games for their own amusement. Actors Michael Pitt (“The Village”) and Brady Corbet (“Mysterious Skin”) do make the perfect incarnates of evil as they mess with the minds of Ann (Watts), her husband George (Roth) and their son Georgie (Deavon Gearheart). Like Christian Bale in “American Psycho” or Matt Damon in “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” Peter (Pitt) and Paul (Corbet) are sharp and always one step ahead of those they make suffer.

Its pretentiousness, however, is too much to handle at times. Haneke is a talented filmmaker. If you’ve seen “Cache,” you will realize how well he can pace a story and twist a viewer’s imagination. But in “Funny Games,” it’s more of a long, well-planned out experimental project that is attention-grabbing but ultimately meaningless. If you want to see some recent mind-screwing at its most brutal see “Hard Candy” and skip out on these “Clockwork Orange” wannabes.

Grade: C

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