Monday, 19 November 2012

Funny Games (2007)

 Following on from Hard Candy, we've got another intense and disturbing film, except Funny Games tries to be a bit more clever and falls a little short for it.

First off, this is a remake of an Austrian film. It is, however, written and directed by the same writer/director as the original and is essentially a shot-for-shot remake, just done ten years later, in English and in the US. With all these considered, my usual pretentious attitude of "Oh you should definitely watch the foreign language original to really appreciate it" doesn't really apply here.

The titular Games are played by a pair of polite yet incredibly sadistic psychopaths, Peter (Brady Corbet) and Paul (Michael Pitt), as they invade the holiday home of a happy family and take them hostage. Sadistic and cruel, the way the pair mess with and harm the family is meant to challenge the audience's reaction to onscreen violence and horror. A number of times Paul will break the fourth wall and address the camera directly with uncomfortable questions about things like "plausible plot development". In a way, the self-aware nature of Paul is what allows the film to break a number of the psychological horror conventions that craft a lot of these films into a predictable mould. these things do work well to a certain degree, especially in the final sequences of the film, but at other times it feels forced as if the director was playing with conventions just to point out that "Hey this is a thing that often happens!". Sometimes though, conventions become commonplace simply because they work, and one that is subverted with regards to the fate of a certain family member  kills a lot of the tension and pacing of the film about 2/3s of the way through. Pace does eventually get back n stride but it's difficult to ignore someone playing with a trope and it falling flat on its face.

As a visual essay on violence in film and how the audiences react to the portrayal of violence on screen, Funny Games works pretty well. Considering all the physical violence happens offscreen in such a way that resembles consciously holding your gaze away from something unpleasant, the film deals with a lot of violent acts and in particular their consequences. One death happens while we're seeing the mundane events occurring in another room, but we hear it and are exposed toe a very visual reminder of what happened for the rest of the time in that house. As a feature film though it's left a little lacking if you want to watch something purely for entertainment purposes, notably because of it's unsatisfying conclusion.

Funny Games is certainly a fan for film enthusiasts who know their way around a horror thriller and the associated tropes because you kind of need to be aware of them to realise the point the film is making. It's not like Scream or Cabin in the Woods though. Those two are different in tone (Funny Games isn't very funny) but also that they work well as films even isolated form their context, but FG without context is just an odd film about two psychopaths taking a family hostage.

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