It is impossible to have a neutral opinion about the Austrian thriller Funny Games--a movie so relentless in its ability to shock that it gained pariah status on the film festival circuit in 1997. In the warped tradition o... more »f A Clockwork Orange, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, and Blue Velvet, this is a film--directed with electrifying audacity by Munich-born Michael Haneke--that addresses the controversy of screen violence by making the viewer as guilty as the Leopold and Loeb-like killers who terrorize a young family of three during their summer vacation. They arrive as friendly neighbors, seducing the family with phony congeniality, but soon Funny Games reveals its devious strategy, turning savage and appalling... and completely captivating for those who can endure the terror. There's actually less violence than you'd see in a typical American horror flick such as Scream, but Haneke's forceful staging effectively fulfills his agenda of viewer complicity; we vividly experience this doomed family's fate and feel helpless to save them. So helpless, in fact, that Haneke dares to offer a hint of respite by giving a victim the upper hand, only to "replay" the same scene with the darkest of outcomes. Funny Games is guaranteed to outrage some viewers with its manipulative schemes, but there's no denying the film's visceral impact, generated by Haneke's expert handling of a superior cast. Don't even think of allowing anyone under age 17 to watch this film; all others should proceed with caution. --Jeff Shannon« less
Amy Lynn | Pennsylvania United States | 05/12/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"One word comes to mind after viewing this film... Mindblowing. You probably have never and will never see anything like this again. I purchased this DVD after reading Fangorias book on ''100 Horror Films Youve never seen''- I dont know if I could classify this as strictly horror, it goes beyond that.
This is a whole other realm thats never been touched... At least not to this severity.. Ive seen many horror/psychological terror films and after watching the likes of Maniac or Gummo I didnt think anything could outdo it, but this beats them all. Gummo was disturbing but it had no merit to it; this film has more to it than the sadistic violence and ''funny games'' the characters play. Ive never seen anything like this. The director takes a more original approach, during the film the killers actually look and talk to the camera at times, not often; but they even play the ''games'' with the audience.
Plot- a couple, their child and dog go to their vacation home. Soon after that the couple is visited by a pair of clean cut young men who soon turn ruthless and brutal. When they first introduce themselves they look like normal polite people, but when one comes over to the house asking to ''borrow eggs'' you know something is coming., You just dont know when and you are anticipating when this guy is going to lose it. You keep rooting for the victims as the film drags on, hoping that somehow they will make it..at least one of them. It goes on and on, the games dont stop, not even at the end.
This film is cruel, brutal, cold, radical, provocative with unbelievable psychological games and horror. A real eye-opener. Its not a family movie of course, it's something you would want to watch alone or in the company of someone very open-minded. You will probably be angry, depressed and astonished at the same time...as you witness the events that unfold in front of your eyes.
Recomended if you think you can handle this... It makes Cape Fear look like Bambi."
Clever, effective and disturbing
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It is a good idea to know something about this film before watching it. On the surface it is that familiar thriller where strangers terrorize a family.But really it is about how you, the viewer, are complicit in on-screen violence. This is the film's priority and it is not afraid to abandon its original, more traditional plot line - however bizarrely - whenever it feels right to emphasize this. Remember. All these horrible things are happening because you won't switch off. Overly violent films only get made because people keep paying to go and see them.The skill of the director of Funny Games is that he makes his point without resorting to hardly any on screen violence, unlike many of the films he parodying.I strongly recommend this film but be warned - it is not a "date movie". See it on your own because it is impossible to know how people will react to it. If you like this film your friends may think you are SICK. You are not. But Funny Games brings home to you just how many films are."
The cure for being too enamored of movie violence!
Art Snob | Rochester, NY United States | 06/10/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I never realized the extent to which big-budget American action films condition audiences into savoring and craving "justifiable" acts of violence until I saw this fascinating and deeply disturbing Austrian movie from noted German director Michael Haneke. I couldn't sleep after seeing it, but after about a week had passed, I was very glad that I'd seen it. I'm now "immune" from being manipulated into enjoying onscreen violence, because the movie made me keenly aware of when I AM being manipulated ... and of the "commandments" that movies featuring cathartically satisfying acts of vengeance are built upon and dare not violate.The storyline is sort of a hybrid of THE DESPERATE HOURS and CAPE FEAR, with two very Aryan-looking young men invading the summer cottage of an upper-middle-class family of three and sadistically playing "funny games" with them. But there's much more than the surface story at work here ... Haneke has some clever tricks up his sleeve when it comes to exercising his total control over the "rules" that the movie plays by. He keeps the audience off-balance by repeatedly violating movie conventions and confounding conditioned expectations as to how events will unfold.Amazingly, there's only ONE act of on-screen violence in the entire movie ... and it's a classic example of the 100% acceptable, "justifiable" sort that American audiences so crave and Hollywood so obligingly provides on a regular basis. But just as your "rush" kicks in, Haneke pulls the carpet out from underneath you with one of his sleight-of-hand tricks, flip-flopping your pleasure into an equivalent amount of pain. And as for the RESULTS of the OFF-screen violence ... well, you're on your own. Special kudos should go out to actors Arno Frisch and Frank Giering, for being willing to play what must be the creepiest, most contemptible crime duo in movie history. (The hillbillies in DELIVERANCE have NOTHING on them!) It takes fearlessness to make yourself a target for audience detestation at this level, and the film wouldn't work if the roles hadn't been so capably filled.Know going in that the "See it if you dare" challenge on the DVD cover is not to be taken lightly. But know also that if you DO take the challenge, you'll emerge from the experience shaken but wiser - in possession of a whole new perspective on the bogusness of traditional Hollywood crowd-pleasing violence."
M. Casarino | Wilmington, DE United States | 02/18/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
""Funny Games" is one of the scariest, darkest, most disturbing films I've ever managed to sit through (and I've seen "Troll 2"). What makes it remarkable is that it's not just an exercise in cinematic sickness, but a satire, one that gleefully and often shatters the fourth wall to show you the bag of tricks at its disposal. Somehow, though, instead of breaking the spell, the surreal and satiric moments add an intensely disturbing level of horror to the goings-on.The plot is simple - after a slow but oddly tension-filled opening (punctuated none-too-subtly by the sudden appearance of oppressive metal music over the credits), two yuppie killers invade the home of a family and systematically terrorize them. They have a secret, however - they seem to know they're in a movie. This movie, to be precise. And they know you're watching. When one of them turns to the camera, smiles, and winks - well, if that doesn't make you feel unclean, you're the wrong audience for this thing.Or maybe the right audience. The director, Haneke, is making a point here about the exploitation of violence and terror as entertainment. However, look at his past - and future - works, and you have to wonder how much of his anger is directed at himself. Haneke is ashamed and angry at his own fascination with brutality, which creates a spiral of satire and pain that makes for one of the rawest experiences you'll have watching a movie.As other viewers have pointed out, there's almost no on-screen violence. And when there is, well, Haneke pulls the rug out from under it. And yet "Funny Games" is remembered as one of the most violent films in recent years, which only goes to show that psychological violence is infinitely more damaging than a few rounds of squibs and a gallon or two of fake blood."
Almost unwatchable, but there is a point
Steven Reynolds | Sydney, Australia | 01/17/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
""Funny Games" takes the violent thriller genre and turns it not so much on its head as inside out, exposing its internal workings and forcing us to consider what it's really about. The story premise is simple enough. A rich and likeable family of three head to their lake house for a summer break. Everything seems normal until into the house come two intruders: the flabby and childlike Peter, and his suavely arrogant friend, Paul. The young men stage-manage a small domestic misunderstanding then escalate it into shocking violence. We soon realise they have a sadistic agenda and we, the audience, are to be taken along for a repulsive but mesmerizing ride. The most generous explanation for this harrowing and at times almost unwatchable film is that it's attempting to explore the very nature of film violence. Writer/director Haneke has his villains address us directly, trying to nod-and-wink us into complicity, and his screenplay thwarts every one of our expectations about foreshadowing, thriller plot structure, character arcs, and deus-ex-machina endings. In doing so, he impressively demonstrates how contrived, unrealistic and ultimately non-frightening almost all supposedly "violent" films actually are. "Funny Games" exposes the formula by refusing to follow it. So what? Well, beneath the artifice I think there is a serious point Haneke is making here. He forces us to ask some interestingly uncomfortable questions. Are the formulaic, unrealistic, cartoonish thrillers we usually label "violent" really only an attempt to TAME violence by forcing it into story patterns where the innocent are saved and the villains are destroyed? Do we watch these films because they teach us that violence has a happy ending, that the bad guys of the world always get what they deserve? Why else do we cheer uncontrollably and feel such visceral relief at the only actual moment of graphic violence in this film (all the rest happen off camera) - the one which Haneke immediately, maddeningly retracts? Because it's the way we want the world to be, and the way Hollywood would have it. "Funny Games" is interesting because it makes us consider these things. It's far from entertaining, though, and I presume that's part of the point: why should violence be the joke Hollywood makes of it? Watch this back-to-back with something like "Panic Room" or "The Hand That Rocks The Cradle" (or anything else from Hollywood's Yuppies-In-Peril cycle of the early 1990s) and you'll see what "Funny Games" is getting at."