Review: Funny Games (1997, Madman Entertainment)




Category: Arthouse/Experimental, Home Invasion, Psychological
Directed by:
Michael Haneke

Written by: Michael Haneke
Starring: Susanne Lothar, Ulrich Mühe, Arno Frisch, Frank Giering, Stefan Clapczynski
Music: N/A
Cinematography: Jürgen Jürges

An Austrian home invasion thriller that mixes elements of meta-fiction and dark humor, Funny Games centers around two men who take control of their victims’ homes and subject them to senseless acts of brutality. Director Michael Haneke’s initial vision for the film was to critique violence in media with a frustrating film centered around pointless violence lacking a real plot.

The beginning hints that you’re not in store for an average horror/thriller movie, when at random a track from experimental noisecore outfit Naked City (which features jazz legends John Zorn and Bill Frisell) interrupts the classical music that’s playing once the opening credits pop up. I was so confused that I actually thought that maybe the video file on my computer got corrupted by an mp3, since I have a few of their CDs on my hard drive and my computer has spliced things together at random before, so I went to Netflix and realized that it wasn’t an audio error. The movie seems to go back to normal when two overly polite men in golfing attire, named Paul and Peter, show up and purposely annoy the three piece family with their odd antics. Eventually one of the them busts the patriarch Georg’s knee and they begin toying with the family in a variety of sadistic ways.

Paul and Peter maintain a very polite, playful and calm demeanor throughout the film, clearly taking joy and showing no remorse at all for their actions. Paul breaks the fourth wall at various points, addressing the audience and even effecting the movie in more drastic ways. Although none of the other characters seem to realize that they are in a movie, Peter makes multiple references to the typical formula of a movie. Neither character offers any reason for their actions, although they offer many conflicting backstories in the form of cliche origin stories. The family, consisting of husband and wife Anna and Georg along with their son also named Georg, basically fight an uphill battle most of the film while being subject to Peter and Paul’s sadistic games. The film is quite violent, which is basically the idea behind everything, although it’s not rife with guts and gore. The film would probably be more relevant now than it was back in the late 90’s with the torture porn sub-genre gaining popularity in the mid-2000’s with films like Hostel, Haute Tension,and the Saw franchise putting gory films in the spotlight again which are the type of movies that Funny Games was criticizing.

While it was never the intention, Funny Games is a smart, refreshing thriller that is a breathe of fresh air amongst a slew of generic horror films. With a sympathetic cast of victims, unique antagonists, and an overall good looking movie I definitely recommend this to any horror fan, although some of the random occurrences and deus ex machina moments may piss some people off, but that was the intention all along.





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