Funny Games U.S.
Directed by Michael Haneke
Funny Games U.S. is an almost shot-by-shot remake of writer-director Michael Haneke's 1997 European psychological thriller of the same name. Ten years after the original shocked and sickened audiences with its brutal depiction of two sociopaths tormenting an upper-class family for seemingly nothing more than kicks, all under the guise of a filmmaker trying to comment on violence in the media while simultaneously attacking his audience for lapping it up, Haneke's Americanized update remains just as empty despite high artistic ambitions. That said, Funny Games U.S. is also a visceral trip that has to at least be experienced once so you can try to forget it, which is unlikely. Haneke's direction makes Eli Roth's successful brand of pointless gore porn look relatively tame by comparison. By relying on pure mental terror, excruciating long shots that won't let you look away from the emotional agony, and very little blood, he delivers one of the most brutal experiences in horror put to film since, well, the last time he made the movie.
George and Anna Farber (Tim Roth and Naomi Watts) have brought their young son Georgie (Devon Gearhart) out to their summer home on Long Island for a few weeks away from their obviously affluent life, but they're barely getting settled in when some guests of their neighbors come around looking for eggs. Paul (Michael Pitt) and Peter (Brady Corbet) are odd ducks to say the least; they look alike, they dress alike--white sweaters, shorts, and gloves--and they won't leave. When George has finally had enough and slaps Paul, Peter breaks his leg with a golf club. Let the games begin.
What follows is 12 movie-time hours of mental torture and bloodshed, perpetrated by the two young men whose relentless politeness and gosh-golly looks merely make their determination to punish the Farbers for simply existing that much more terrifying. Whenever cinematic history dictates the plot should twist this way or that, Paul and Peter do the opposite, even going so far as to break the fourth wall and ask you, the hungry audience, what you want. As a rule, they don't listen and instead keep giving you more of what you don't want; it's reality, after all, so there are no plot twists and there is no catharsis. Or at least that's what Haneke is trying to say, although he forgets that his social satire is every bit as manipulative as the media he wants to comment on. More interesting is to consider why the director even agreed to remake this movie at all. While it's not a re-creation on par with Gus Van Sant's 1998 Psycho, it's close, and feels much more exploitative--the very thing Funny Games U.S. wants to abhor.