Funny Games (2007) Movie Review - Divisive and Shocking Social Commentary Horror

Horror, Thriller | 111 Min
Funny Games Review
  • Director: Michael Haneke
  • Actors: Naomi Watts, Tim Roth, Michael Pitt, Brady Corbet, Devon Gearhart
  • Writers: Michael Haneke
  • Producers: Hamish McAlpine, Christian Baute, Chris Coen, Andro Steinborn, Naomi Watts
  • Country: United States, France, United Kingdom, Germany, Italy
  • Language: English
  • Parental: Implied Violence Never Actually Seen On Screen. Some Blood But No Real Gore. Implied Nudity But Not Shown. Bad Language. Peril.
  • Horror, Thriller | 111 Min

Two psychopathic young men take a family hostage in their cabin.

It’s day 13 of our K-O-Ween 31 Days of Halloween feature and we fell one day short of having a Friday the 13th in October of 2022. With that in mind, we can’t possibly review Friday the 13th.. It just wouldn’t be right. Best believe you know what I will be reviewing for day 13 next year, though. Today, instead, we are going to be taking a look at the 2007 remake of Funny Games. I get a bit wordy here so apologies in advance.

We are reviewing a horror movie a day for the entirety of October 2022 leading up to Halloween. These reviews will be shorter and more straight to the point than my standard format. We will feature a range of movies from horror classics to international hits and a few indie darlings. You can check out the entire K-O-Ween feature by clicking right here.

A Controversial Remake

This is a bit of a controversial one to review. For one, there are a whole bunch of people who hate the movie. For two,¬† I know a lot of purists will rage that I chose to review the American version rather than the Austrian. Both versions have their merits but people tend to prefer the Austrian original. It’s worth remembering, however, that the US version is a shot for shot remakes.

Director Michael Haneke always intended this movie for American audiences. The Austrian version just didn’t get much traction so he remade it. I actually much prefer the cast of the American version which is why I went with this. With that in mind, let’s take a look. As always, feel free to skip the synopsis if you like. I always breakdown the general plot of the movie in a spoiler free way. I find it helpful when reading reviews and like to offer a quick summary to my readers.

Let The Games Begin

Funny Games follows couple George, played by Tim Roth, and Annie, played by Naomi Watts, and their son Georgie as they head to their luxury holiday home on the lake. Along the way they pass by their neighbour’s house and notice him standing with two young men. George asks for the neighbour to come over shortly to help him carry something. The neighbour agrees but appears to be acting a little strange. Shortly after the family arrive the neighbour, Fred, comes over accompanied by a young man called Paul, played by Michael Pitt. Fred is acting strangely and, once he leaves, George and his son comment on this.

Paul, Peter, and Annie from Funny Games

Lesson: You shouldn’t trust people wearing gloves indoors.

Later on, Annie is in the kitchen of the house cutting meat when a man referring to himself as Peter (Brady Corbet) comes to visit. He requests to borrow some eggs but drops them on the floor when leaving the kitchen. Annie, startled, goes to check out what happened. Peter, now accompanied by Paul, blames the dog jumping on him for why he dropped the eggs. Little does Annie realise, however, that there is a far more sinister motive for Peter and Paul’s visit and broken eggs will be the least of her and her family’s problems.

Brutal and Horribly Authentic

Funny Games is not a horror movie in the strictest sense of the word, lacking in the basic story and structure that one would expect. It is more a simple portrayal of sadism as a loving family is tortured over a single night. Indeed, Michael Haneke didn’t intend for it to be a horror movie at all. If anything, it is a commentary on American, and Western, media and the consumer’s desire for blood and gore. It is, however, a pretty horrifying movie just in its brutality alone. The events of the movie are terrifying and entirely possible in real life. The fact that there is, apparently, no motive for the events just makes it all the more horrifying.

Funny Games features a pair of antagonists that are truly menacing in how ruthless they can be. They are here for entertainment and that is, perhaps, one of the most horrific motivations of all. There comes along with this a strange kind of humour. Funny Games will likely make you laugh on a few occasions. You’ll feel guilty for it given the circumstances, but it does make you chuckle.

Funny Games (2007) Review

Yes this is a commentary on the macabre fascination people have with NASCAR crashes

The character’s interactions with each other are another source of humour. They give a multitude of reasons for their actions to the family and the way Paul puts them across is genuinely funny. It feels as though much of the movie is played for laughs and it will get them out of anyone with an appreciation for dark humour. I know my partner and I were laughing all the way through.

Utterly Hopeless

It is impossible to reason with someone¬† who just wants to create suffering. That is something that offers Funny Games a very deliberate feeling of hopelessness. Michael Haneke, at numerous points in the movie, likes to build up that hope just a little and then strip it away. If I didn’t know any better, I would say he wants to make the viewer another victim of the duo. It’s a very good way of adding to the horror and leaving the viewer feeling somewhat desperate.

There appears to be a distinct nod to the Leopold and Loeb crime of the century here.. For those who don’t know the case, Nathan Leopold Jr and Richard Loeb were a pair of young men with genius IQs. They believed that their intellect was so superior to the average person’s that they could commit a perfect crime and get away with it completely. With this plan in mind, they kidnapped and murdered Bobby Franks, a 14 year old boy.

Fully believing they would not be caught; the murderers didn’t count on one thing: Nathan Leopold’s big mouth and the chance that he might drop his glasses. The two were brought in for questioning, their alibi was revealed to be a lie, and they were convicted. How it relates to Funny Games, however, is in the motivation for the killing of Bobby Franks. The men were purely thrill seeking and doing it because they thought they could get away with it. There was no real reason, it was just a way for them to have fun. This, in and of itself, is one of the most terrifying motivations for murder and this is exactly what we see in Funny Games.

Haneke Plays With The Viewer

Although Annie and George aren’t a particularly likeable couple, you do feel for them. Their suffering is tremendous and it drags out for some time. It is clear that we are supposed to somewhat dislike the couple, however; at least initially. There is a long lingering shot as their automatic gate closes while they drive through to their enormous lake house in a matt black Range Rover.

They share emotionless conversations with their equally superficial, spoiled, neighbours and are seemingly oblivious to the struggles of the rest of the world. Annie is abrupt, obviously self important, and not particularly welcoming. George is concerned only with his boat and enjoying his vacation. This is the type of family that people love to hate. Privileged and looking firmly down their nose at anyone who is not like them.

Annie from Funny Games (2007)

Naomi Watts, as Annie, looks truly exhausted by the end of the movie

I really believe that Michael Haneke was daring the viewer to hate the family. He is banking on the viewer wanting bad things to happen to them. This movie is a commentary on the public’s desire for horror, murder, guts and gore. Considering, also, the general charisma of Paul and the comedy that comes along with the boy’s delivery. It’s hard not to imagine Haneke wanted you to root for the bad guys. He wants the viewer to feel like this is comeuppance for the rich family that have a perfect life and deserve bringing back down to earth. Obviously, from a moral standpoint this is not the right thing to do. It does, however, play into a bigger issue that people have with Funny Games.

A Hugely Divisive Movie

Boy does Funny Games rub some people up the wrong way! There are a few filming techniques that are going to annoy people. There is one scene where a character rewinds the movie to correct something that went wrong. This is going to wind some people up. There is also a lot of fourth wall breaking. Camera work can be a bit unusual at times as well. Michael Haneke had full control over every shot and he really lingers on some of them. Some of these shots can seem pointless and over done but there is usually something there Haneke wants you to notice or realise.

The main reason for some people’s disdain, however, as pointed out above, is that Haneke uses Funny Games as a way to wag his finger at the viewer. “Bad!! You are a bad person and you should feel bad!”. Haneke seemingly casts judgement over the viewer, and the public in general, for their obsession with blood, gore, and violence. The majority of the violence in Funny Games is off camera, depriving the viewer of what they want to see. All you actually see are the reactions of the horrified witnesses to the violence.

Bad Viewer!

Haneke couldn’t give two capfuls of bottled piss about engaging the viewer in the gratuitous violence that they came to see. He only wants to show you the hypocrisy of the media and people in general. Violence in media is normalised to a worrying degree. Seeing violence on the news is normal but women are fired from jobs for not wearing a bra. Blood and guts are fine but a nipple protruding through clothing is apparently terrible. Western media is completely misguided.

There is one point in the movie where a character is forced to strip naked. The young son, in this scene, has his face covered. During the violent scenes, the son’s face remains uncovered. This is a clear nod to the widely held western view that nudity is terrible but violence is totally fine. Hanake is judging you, the viewer, and the the people who enjoy blood and guts in general.

This judgement is something that, frankly, pisses a lot of people off. They want to watch a movie and not be judged. Obviously that is fair enough but the judgemental nature of the film doesn’t really stop it from being enjoyable. It does come across as somewhat pretentious however. Funny Games does, at times, feel like it spends far too much time hotboxing itself under the covers so it can enjoy its own farts.

So Why The American Version?

Most fans of Funny Games prefer the Austrian version from 1997. I totally get this and I am surprised that my opinion is different as I am a big fan of European horror. My reasoning is pretty simple, however – the cast. I think the cast of the 2007 remake are fantastic. I have always been a big Tim Roth fan and Naomi Watts is one of my favourite actors. Both are fantastic in Funny Games. Brady Corbet, as Peter, also puts in a decent performance.

Naomi Watts’ acting is so convincing that you actually feel sorry for the actor herself, not just the character. She looks to be in genuine discomfort at times and like she is totally exhausted by the end of the movie. She is amazing as always. Tim Roth is excellent. There’s a scene that is very reminiscent of him being on the floor with a gunshot wound in Reservoir Dogs. It reminds you of what a powerful actor he is. I do, however, find both of their accents slipping at times. It seems that whenever Tim Roth is playing an American character and he has to show pain or struggle, his accent slips and becomes very obviously a British person putting on an American accent. Naomi Watts does the same in a scene or two but is generally much more consistent.

The real star of the show here, however, is Michael Pitt as Paul. He is sinister, funny, creepy, and unnerving. He kind of reminds me of what would have happened if Kevin McCallister from Home Alone went rogue and took his demented torture fetish all the way through to adult life. It’s an excellent performance from an actor that I believe is quite disliked by the people he has worked with. Perhaps playing something of an asshole comes a little too naturally to him? He appears to be struggling at the moment, however. Recent reports are troubling regarding the mental health of Michael Pitt. I hope he is getting the help he needs; he is a fantastic actor when on form.

Should You Watch Funny Games?

Funny Games is an excellent movie but it isn’t for everyone. If you love horror movies with a dark sense of humour and don’t mind a bit of finger pointing, you should definitely watch Funny Games. You just need to go in with expectations set. This isn’t a complex story with tons of depth. It is a movie that puts a spotlight on people’s obsession with violence. Acting is fantastic and the movie is genuinely funny, at times, but also completely brutal. If that sounds like your cup of tea, check it out.

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