Starring Naomi Watts (The Ring), Tim Roth (Reservoir Dogs), and Michael Pitt (Boardwalk Empire) and written and directed by Michael Haneke. Funny Games is a dark, terrifying, messed up movie. Ten years after its original 1997 release, Haneke brought back one of his first films. Perhaps he didn’t get everything he wanted the first time around and felt the material solicited another shoot. The structure of it was extremely simplistic, a family: Ann (Watts), George (Roth) and their son take leave to their lakeside, vacation home where they are visited by two very polite men dressed in all-white, preppy tennis gear (Pitt and Bradley Corbet). The two men make a simple bet with the family: “You bet that you’ll be alive tomorrow at 9:00; and we bet that you’ll be dead.”
What follows is a grueling hour of torture, torment and violence. The Oxford-looking offenders force the family to play their sick, twisted version of “Truth or Dare” as well as “trust” games until the family is pushed too far and starts to fight back. With each act of insubordination against their perpetrators, the family is squashed and punished, becoming increasingly desperate and violent in their own right. They relinquish any thought of escape, finding help and embrace the idea of murder. Come 9 a.m., the following morning, however, there’s no happy ending. No blood-soaked-and-beaten family emerging from the door of their once idyllic vacation home, having gone through hell and survived and become all the more close for it. They all lay dead, as the two men find their way to the next house–leaving the viewer with the cold truth that sometimes bad things happen and good people die.
Haneke creates an entryway of tension and suspense–allowing just enough hope to creep toward the protagonists–before slamming the door in their faces, so the viewer is constantly on the edge of their seats. Everyone, in the film, delivers a startlingly real and gritty performance, so that the viewer is there (one hundred percent) for every gouge, tear and blunt-force trauma induced by the sadistic writer and director. The most debated point in the film is when the audience’s suspension of disbelief is interrupted. Anne shoots one of her captors, only to have the director break the fourth wall—as the other man finds a remote control and literally rewinds the occurrence, stopping her from doing it. It reminds viewers that they are, in fact, watching a movie. This was done to take away from some of the exploitative nature of what was going on, to soften it up just a little bit for a more major release. It was done to convey the same sense of chaos and confusion that was portrayed, in the film, leading up to that point. The feeling that no one is safe and nothing is mapped out, bleeds everywhere–throughout the film. By no means is it a feel-good movie. Honestly it’s a piece that will probably chip away at your soul upon witnessing. But it’s done with a technique and style that doesn’t pass itself off as a B-grade snuff-film wannabe—it’s not a gore fest. It simply enables the viewer to be a fly on the wall, seeing the very dark and depraved side of humanity.