Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Funny Games (2007)

Funny Games is one of those infamous titles that you hear talked about among the devoted horror fan community, and as a member of that community, it's been on my watchlist for a while. (Alas, there are so many movies to watch, that you can't even guarantee seeing all the good ones first, or even just the genre landmarks). In the wake of watching The Cabin in the Woods (the second time), I overheard discussions comparing it to Funny Games in the sense that it is another self-conscious horror movie that examines the horror fan's desire to be entertained by sadistic violence.

I'll be honest, I'm not real big on horror deconstruction. As a philosopher and an intellectual, I enjoy examining the inner workings of things, but movies that attempt to answer the question, "why are people entertained by violence" all too frequently come at the question from the wrong direction. They assume that being entertained by violence is disgusting - which is a valid perspective, but one that comes from people who criticize horror, not the people who enjoy it. I don't need someone to point out to me how odd (if not downright disturbing) it is that I should glean delight from a fictional scene involving the physical and/or psychological pain and torture of a human being.

As a horror fan, I know that it's not the same sort of entertainment one gets from watching porn, or from sharing a good meal with friends, or any other kinds of entertainment in the vast realm of human experience, each with its own qualities and functions. And as an intelligent horror fan I also understand that though I may seek out the thrill of watching people fight for their lives in an on-screen dramatization, it does not in any way correlate to any sort of desire to make real people really suffer. In fact, I'm quite squeamish on that count. To me it's pretty simple why a person might respond favorably to the vicarious excitement one finds in a horror film, and the fact of it doesn't particularly alarm me.

Unfortunately, I didn't realize when I watched Funny Games that the copy I had acquired was actually the English language remake (ten years after the Austrian original). I confess, I did not do my homework well enough this time. But that's okay. I am going to watch the original as well. As for the remake, I have this to say about it - it definitely has some scenes that borderline on the "okay, this is clearly not being done to entertain the viewer, but to unnerve him". But then, there is a valid place in horror cinema for that kind of discomfort. I wouldn't expect all horror films to glorify violence and gloss over the very real and unglamorous aftereffects of this kind of trauma, and that sort of experience is worth depicting as well.

Apart from that, I will say that Funny Games (this version, at least) can stand as a really effective and original horror movie in its own right, with some really uniquely disturbing villains who totally defy horror convention in a really intriguing way. The brief moments where the film becomes unapologetically self-conscious are simply unnecessary, and don't really add much to the film except to give it a bit of a pretentious "see what we're doing here?" kind of an attitude. I could just as well do without that, and I think the movie would be no less effective as an examination of the phenomenon of 'horror for entertainment' even without it. Oh well. I look forward to seeing how the original version compares, although I've heard that it's a very close remake.

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