“Funny Games” may be in the running for the strangest remake of all time.
For one thing, the movie it remakes is only 10 years old – hardly an age to make something obsolete.
Even odder, director Michael Haneke remakes his own film, rather than having another director take the reigns.
However, there is a lot to be found in the depths of “Funny Games,” and Haneke has found a way to make his film frighteningly relevant in today’s world.
This deconstruction of the slasher film – and it is a complete deconstruction – provides an enjoyable viewing experience, albeit one that may be quite unexpected.
The trailers for the film seem to be advertising a completely different movie, which may give viewers the wrong impression, but “Funny Games” is, to some extent, a horror film.
It has the traditional convention of an idyllic family, and the script is well-paced for what it is attempting.
However, Haneke’s screenplay is probably the most divisive aspect of the film.
He defies conventions left and right, most obtrusively in his narration and in his decision to break the fourth wall in several scenes.
These controversial choices are necessary in terms of the message of the film, but it is a “love it or hate it” decision.
This is not a traditional slasher film, and may disappoint some hoping for another “Saw” or “Hostel.”
The script plays deeply into the themes of the film, which are incredibly rich and well-defined.
“Funny Games” is a modern criticism of the horror genre through a horror film itself and makes several great observations about the current state of these movies.
It tackles everything from character roles to plot developments with a deft hand, ultimately chastising the audience for even going to see a film in which they expect to watch people get murdered.
Haneke breaks down the aspects of many modern horror films to their most base elements, and the result may be even more horrifying than the films themselves, given how viewers look at them.
However, in terms of plot, this method leaves a lot on the table, making for a pretty shallow final story.
None of this could be achieved without a great cast, and fortunately “Funny Games” has several gems.
Michael Pitt is truly fantastic as Paul, the dominant member of the sadistic pair of boys who torture the unsuspecting family.
His wry looks and off-hand manner really sell his role, and he garners a good amount of laughs with this style.
Brady Corbet plays Peter, the other half of the tandem, with a bit more reservation but no less polish.
Naomi Watts is good as Ann, the matriarch of the family, and Tim Roth’s portrayal of the father George is also solid with a few interesting nuances, although at times he falls flat. The only really weak link is Devon Gearhart as their son.
Haneke also shows his chops as a director by using the cinematography and editing of “Funny Games” to back up his work thematically.
The most interesting example of this might be the use of violence in the film.
For a movie that one assumes will be a horror/slasher film, violence is to be expected, but Haneke places basically all of the violence in the film off-camera, failing to satisfy the perceived bloodlust of the audience.
He also uses a few shots early in the film to trick the viewers later on, with varying degrees of satisfaction.
As a whole, “Funny Games” is an interesting breakdown of modern horror films in which director Haneke manages to chastise audiences for what we have come to expect in these movies.
With the help of some great acting, he achieves his goal, though the end product, while thematically rich, can be a little shallow as an experience.
If you are interested in the horror genre as a medium, this film is for you, but those expecting another “Saw”-type film will not only be disappointed but also admonished by Haneke.