JUNE 16, 2008
After a nearly year long attempt to rent (or even find) the original version of Funny Games, I decided to make an exception for my “watch the original first” rule when I saw that the remake was now on DVD. I figured it was a safe risk – by all accounts it was the exact same movie, shot for shot; and with the same director to boot. And once the film had concluded, I was quite thankful that it was the same thing, as it will spare me another wasted 110 minutes of my life.
The problem with this pretentious drivel is that writer/director Michael Haneke assumes that the only reason people go to see horror movies is to see people killed, graphically. No, asshole, we go for the suspense, and yes, STORY when applicable. I am sure that the success of Hostel and the Saw films led to him being able to remake his 1997 film, but the irony is that those films have better stories, more interesting characters, and more noble intentions in mind than simply mocking their audience. I’m not going to lie and say that I am not curious as to what sort of traps Jigsaw has come up with for us every October, but if the movies were as plotless and boring as this one, there’d be no such thing as Saw II, let alone V.
And fuck any movie that has a “rewind” sequence. Yes, I get the point – it’s “not the movie you came to see, you WANT to see the bad guys kill the good guys, blah blah”. Again, fuck you – your goddamn movie is long enough without spending 5 minutes showing us something and then rewinding it (rewinding it too far in fact) for a “do over”. At 75 minutes all of this could have been a bit easier for me to digest, but after an hour or so I am not hoping for someone to get violently killed because I’m a gorehound; I’m just sick of watching underdeveloped and snooty characters sit around doing nothing while two other underdeveloped and snooty characters talk to them. This might work as a play, but even then I’m not sure (it's worth noting that it doesn't work as a black comedy either).
Also, since one of the killer guys talks directly to the camera a few times, telling us that we want to see the good people die, it’s sort of a foregone conclusion that they all do. So there goes any suspense.
That said there are occasional moments where I was actually enjoying the film. There’s a great bit in the kitchen, with Naomi Watts walking back and forth with a doorway in the background. Having just watched Halloween again the night before, it’s easy to see where the idea for this scene came from; at some point, you’re expecting to see someone standing there watching, only to disappear the next time the camera passes. It’s suspenseful (it occurs before the guy talks to the camera), and well shot as well. Later, there’s a shot that’s something like 7 minutes long, detailing Watts’ attempts to free herself of her binds. It’s not particularly suspenseful this time around (this one’s after the 4th wall break), but on a technical level it’s pretty impressive.
There are also two things I flat out loved. One – despite like 5 production companies listed, only one has an animated logo at the top of the film. THANK YOU! The movie is long enough, thank Christ we are spared another two minutes of self-fellating logos. Second – there’s a scene where Watts runs out of the house and sees a car coming up. This scene always goes one of two ways in a horror movie: the heroine waves the car down, and it contains the villain, OR, her attempts to wave it down fail and the car keeps driving. But for once they do something different. She hides from the car to see who is driving before approaching it. She fails, and then of course the next car has our villains, but hey, it’s a start. But again, the movie is just shy of 2 hours long – it has to offer more than a handful of impressive moments and appeal to my hatred of logos in order to maintain my interest.
The irony, of course, is that the film has almost zero onscreen violence. The kid and the father (Tim Roth, NOT playing a hardass for once) are killed offscreen entirely, and Watts is merely pushed over the side of a boat. Oooh, so clever! I really wanted to see a kid’s head blown off, but instead I only got to HEAR it while I watched the other killer calmly fix himself a sandwich! Such brilliance!
(Actually, I DO want to see the kid get shot, if only to explain how the blood splatter from a kid barely four feet tall managed to have a central point located about 7 feet up on the wall. Was he diving through the air at the time?)
I dunno, maybe since I am neither a critic of “torture porn” nor someone who gets off on seeing such things, I’m just not the target audience for the film. I enjoy being held in suspense in the context of a good story with well written characters (at least for horror “films” such as this – if we’re talking popcorn junk, I just want to be entertained, a la Shocker), something Haneke and crew clearly weren’t interested in achieving. Romero and Cronenberg’s movies say something – but they work on an entertainment level as well. Making a pointless film to make a point (one that isn’t even totally valid to begin with) is just idiotic. In a way, it reminded me of that steaming shitpile Crash (not the Cronenberg one), albeit not as insulting or vapid. Still, the similarity is hard to dismiss; both films are trying to make a generalized and obvious point (and at least Crash’s point – “racism is bad!” - is actually true), and using a generic, dull film as a vessel of making it. I’m surprised Games didn’t win any Oscars.
What say you?