Michael Haneke (“Hidden”, “The Piano Teacher”, “Code Unknown”) takes on America with an English language remake every bit as shocking as his brilliantly conceived original 1997 “Funny Games”. In this exploration of our violent society Haneke retells the story through the eyes of a middle-class family who arrive at their secluded holiday home in the Hamptons for a two-week vacation. Soon after, a young man makes a surprise call, and asks to borrow some eggs. When the man is joined by his ‘charming’ friend, what initially appears to be an innocuous visit by their neighbour’s guests, soon turns into a horrifying ordeal for all concerned as the two men embark upon a twisted campaign of torment and raw terror.
2008 – Certificate 18
Rating Details: Strong sustained threat, humiliation and violence
(I can’t help thinking the rating details sound like a day at work.) When I’m not saving the planet, listening to music, going to gigs or watching films, I like to read books. I often read them on trains, though mainly to help prevent the affliction known as eye-contact. Yesterday at work I had to go on a secret, special mission, to deepest, darkest, West Sussex; even my manager didn’t know where I was going, I think. I felt a bit like James Bond, except saving the planet and working for a charity seems (so far at least) to have precluded my being provided with an Aston Martin as a company car; (I have asked for one, many times). So I went by train instead. I got somewhat muddy trying to make-up a bit of time, by walking the three or four miles from the station to my ‘mission objective’ along a bridleway down the side of a field; I must speak to M, or P, or whatever letter of the alphabet is responsible for my equipment, about that. On the train afterwards I finished reading “Return of the Native” by Thomas Hardy. In fact I was so engrossed in it that I missed the station I was supposed to change trains at, to discover I was then stuck on a non-stop trip to London Victoria, which was a bit frustrating. I was also worried that when I got there, people might think I was a bit weird if I just carried on sitting on the train; well I had to get back to where I’d come from and I didn’t want the hassle of negotiating at the ticket barrier and trying to explain away my stupidity. In the end I did get out of the carriage and nonchalantly wonder about for a bit on the platform, before getting back on the same train when I though no one was watching; (I guess I’m very paranoid, or just have a hugely inflated opinion of my importance). As far as ‘classic literature’ is concerned, I only ever read Thomas Hardy. Despite Hardy’s misfortune to miss out on punk and modern movie blockbusters, I do find I share a lot of his world views. His books totally rock and if reading one whose first chapter is wholly devoted to the landscape of a heathland in southern England isn’t your idea of a fun time, then quite frankly you should go off and die; or at least feel very ashamed of your MTV-addled, “I want everything and I want it now” life-style. “Return of the Native” is probably my second favourite Hardy book. Honestly, you really should read it. My next book is “Star Trek: Millennium”; (which is really three books). And finally, if you still think my life isn’t exciting enough, then tomorrow I’m going to drive for about four hours, just so I can deliver four pints of hot water somewhere and shake a mayor’s hand. If someone wants to invade my home, then I probably won’t be in much, which if it was featured in a film like this one would have made it extremely boring and short. But even if I was home I’d be okay; I’m vegan so I don’t eat eggs.
In 1997 Michael Haneke wrote and directed a German thriller/horror home invasion film called “Funny Games”. It was so good that he remade it in English ten years later. That’s remade as in replicated virtually everything, even the camera angles. This is the American version. I have the German one but I’ve not got around to watching it yet. Most people seem to think the original version is the best. I really like this film. The victims were just a bit too nice and successful for my liking, what with their stupid 4WD car and huge, gated, second home in the country. The ‘bad guys’ were suitably bad and manage to be very unsettling. If the film does one thing well, it’s provide a real feel for the hopelessness of the family’s situation. Naomi Watts as Ann is really excellent and it provides a few “did they really just do that?” moments. It loses it a bit near the end, but overall it’s an excellent, tense, movie. Its pervading black humour and the hopelessness of the situation the family finds itself in are things Thomas Hardy might have appreciated.
Another film with a limited use of music, but when it does make an appearance its makes a big difference. The sudden jump from opera to Naked City’s thrash metal is a great segue. You just know something bad’s going to happen when you hear that.
Recommended for fans of tense, oppressive films. Not recommended for anyone who’s seen the first version; you know you’ll only moan that this one isn’t as good.
No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.
Top badass moment? Georgie, the little boy, did good; (for most of the film anyway). He was loads better than his useless father, who just sat around looking anguished and fussing about his leg. (Mister dull and conservative; whatever did Naomi Watts see in him?) It’s so wrong, but little kids with shotguns are badass.
I seem to have developed some sort of repetitive strain injury in my left shoulder and arm. For the past five weeks they’ve been sore, but there’s no sign of any swelling and the pain tends to move about from day to day. I’ve actually lost a lot of the strength in my arm too, as a result of trying not to use it too much. In fact I’m going to go and see the doctor in the next week or two if it doesn’t improve. I always though as a conservationist, that one day I’d be shot by poachers, angry at my preventing them from harvesting elephant tusks, freeze to death whilst heroically planting one too many trees up a frozen mountain somewhere, or be poisoned by the ultra-rare and ultra-venomous bunga-woonga jungle snake that I was fighting to protect from extinction; (I made that name up by the way as a sort of plot contrivance to keep things moving here, so don’t bother Googling it). Sadly I seemed to have been ‘taken out’ by driving to too many meetings and writing too many e-mails. I guess this makes me a bit of a geek; but without the ‘clever attribute’; or the looks for that matter.
1992 – Certificate: Not Rated – Japan
This is another slightly bonkers Japanese film and the first in a loosely connected trilogy with the overall tagline “human beings are garbage”. Nice. Despite this, it’s more of a thriller than a horror, with a little comedy and romance thrown in too. The story sort of makes sense, but there’re plenty of blatant “but what about the…” moments in it too. Three young guys become friends after witnessing a random murder at a level crossing. They decide to hold a party, (well doesn’t everyone after witnessing a bloody, multiple stabbing of a schoolgirl)? They all try to find a woman to take to the party to impress the others, but only one manages to find someone; of the other two, one ends up handcuffed to fence by a prostitute (well I think she was one anyway) and the other gets so nervous that he’s sick on his would-be date, which rather puts her off going with him for some reason. Anyway, the lucky guy is on his way to the party with his date when they get attacked by a gang and of course she ends up dead. Well the new friends all get together to track down the baddies, which results in some suitably nasty shotgun action and some general all-around unpleasantness. The best/worst things to watch out for are the rather bizarre, entirely over-the-top maniacal laughter that most of the characters seemed to insist on emitting when they’re doing something particularly, em, maniacal; and the guy who plays the young geek (he’s the one that was sick on his date-to-be), who really does look and act like everyone’s idea of a Japanese geek. Great stuff. The music, when used, is surprisingly effective too. In a technical sense, my DVD of this film was pretty awful. The picture quality wasn’t very good (very over-exposed and washed out) and the sound was even worse. Not only was it mono, but the centre of the sound-stage was located somewhere near my birthday cards, rather than in the centre of the TV screen. (The cards, all three of them, which even after nearly three weeks I’ve still got displayed, are located somewhere off to the left of the telly.) It’s surely not asking too much for the sound to seem vaguely focused near the picture, rather than adjacent to a cruel reminder of how many friends I don’t have?
Recommended for would-be-geeks who want to see the real deal in action; plus anyone who collects recordings of horror-movie laugher; I guess there aren’t a lot of the latter.
No cats and no decapitations.
Top badass moment? It has to be the guy in the car at the end, complete with maniacal laughter and Proclaimers style glasses. Weedy geeks fighting back is always badass. The moral being, never push a geek, because in movies they’ll always kick your ass in the end.