Funny Games


Reviewed by: Tony Sullivan

Funny Games
"If you've not been through this particular emotional wringer before then the English language version Funny Games comes guaranteed to scare, shock and annoy the hell out of you."

A idyllic vacation goes awry for a staid couple (Tim Roth and Naomi Watts) and their son (Devon Gearhart) when two white-gloved, preppy twentysomethings (Michael Pitt and Brady Corbet) arrive, asking to borrow some eggs. The two interlopers soon settle down to an evening of terror, torture and other mayhem, which they claim to be for their entertainment – funny games.

Dear viewer, if you are thinking about watching this film you fall into one of two camps: You've seen Michael Haneke's original Austrian film, from 1997, or you haven't.

Copy picture

Let's address the first group. Among you, there are those who didn't enjoy the experience and certainly won't want to go through THAT again, and there are those who watched rapt and appalled. I'll tell you that you will be watching more or less the same thing again - just with different actors. Second time around I found the palpable tension of the thing even more of a strain, since you know where it is all going (maybe).

If you've not been through this particular emotional wringer before then the English language version Funny Games comes guaranteed to scare, shock and annoy the hell out of you.

The holding-the-family-hostage thing has been done before for one reason and another, most predominantly to set up situations where the father is being forced to rob his own bank as in Cash On Demand (1963) or Firewall (2006). What sets Funny Games apart is that the evil duo have no agenda… anything can and will happen. The audience is kept guessing, kept in suspense. It should be reassuring to note that anything graphic happens off screen - but it isn't - because that means no special effects and THAT means more realism. Haneke plays his funny games well.

Pitt and Corbet are possibly better cast than their German/Austrian forbears (Arno Frisch and Frank Giering) – they exude a clean, preppy disquiet that makes the viewer really, really loathe them.

Watts and Roth are less well cast because they are known faces. The original film featured BAFTA-nominated Ulrich Muhe and Susanne Lothar, both of whom put in such naturalistic performances that you could easily think you were watching a documentary. The presence of Tim Roth tells you that you are at the movies, although he brings his own inbuilt twitchiness to the role which unsettles the tone of the thing (as if you need more unsettling!).

Which leaves one more thing to tell you. Rules get broken. No, not just the rules of our preppy terrorist's games, but the rules of cinema, and at this point you can go with the thrill of it or you can just be annoyed. You can't deny that it is different, though.

This is not Saw XVIII. This is not Halloween. This is an artsy psycho thriller with pretensions for viewers with strong constitutions, and even if you fancy that might be you, the film may still annoy… or thrill.

American viewers will stop off on the way home at Wal-Mart to purchase firearms and ammunition, and woe betide the poor sap who pops over to borrow a cup of sugar. The rest of us will have to make do with, say, a golf club to fend off miscreants. It will have that sort of effect.

You have been warned.

Reviewed on: 13 Feb 2008
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Funny Games packshot
English language remake of the ice-cold horror about a family held hostage by a pair of preppy youngsters. Plus read our with producer Chris Coen.
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Read more Funny Games reviews:

Paul Griffiths ****
Chris **

Director: Michael Haneke

Writer: Michael Haneke

Starring: Naomi Watts, Tim Roth, Michael Pitt, Brady Corbet, Siobhan Fallon, Arno Frisch, Boyd Gaines, Devon Gearhart, Robert LuPone, Linda Moran

Year: 2007

Runtime: 111 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: France, US, UK, Italy

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