Funny Games (1997)

funny games 1997 poster
8.0 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 8/10

Good cast, good idea

Feels like it could have been even better without some story choices

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Funny Games

Studio:  Filmfonds Wien/Wega Film/Osterreichisher Rundfunk (ORF)

Genre(s):  Mystery/Suspense/Horror

Release Date(s):  May 14, 1997 (Cannes)/March 11, 1998 (US)

MPAA Rating:  Not Rated

funny games cast arno frisch frank giering ulrich muhe susanne lothar stefan clapczynski

Can’t some bros get some eggs?

Anna Schober (Susanne Lothar), Georg (Ulrich Mühe), and their son Georgie (Stefan Clapczynski) are headed to their lake house for a vacation…but encounter horror.  When two young men (Frank Giering and Arno Frisch) stop by their house, things get dark and dangerous.  The “Peter” and “Paul” want to play a little game…and there are no winners.  It is going to take quick thinking of Anna, Georg, and Georgie to escape…but not everyone follows the rules.

Written and directed by Michael Haneke, Funny Games is a Austrian horror thriller.  The film premiered at Cannes and received mixed to positive reviews.  Haneke released a shot-for-shot remake of the movie in English starring Naomi Watts and Tim Roth. The Criterion Collection released a remastered version of the movie (Criterion #975).

funny games breaks fourth wall paul arno frisch

That’s right…I’m lookin at you!

I kept putting off seeing Funny Games.  The remake came out, and I didn’t see it either.  The movie became a cult favorite, but it is also a divisive film.  When I finished Funny Games, I wasn’t sure if I liked it or not.  Due to aspects of the story, a ******spoiler alert****** exists for the review.

The movie is both a thriller and anti-thriller.  The film essentially took something like a Fatal Attraction or Kiss the Girls and reverse engineers it.  While it is still a thriller, all the red herrings and clichés that fit into the thriller genre are written opposite of how they normally play out.  A kid survives, the Funny Games kid dies.  A knife in the boat is a means to escape, the knife doesn’t do anything…the “good guys” lose.

This is become the movie is self-referential.  Arno Frisch (whose name is never really clear) is breaks the fourth way throughout the film.  This comes to the head when he littler rewinds time with a remote control to keep Anna from killing Paul.  He and Frank Giering criticize the family for breaking rules, but he also isn’t following the rules…the question comes down to if you like the twist or not.

funny games anna beaten gagged susanne lothar

I don’t know…we could still salvage this weekend

The cast is good.  Ulrich Mühe spends most of the movie with a highly damaged leg while Susanne Lothar takes the brunt of the punishment from Peter and Paul.  Stefan Clapczynski isn’t bad as a child actor and his solo scenes also ratchet up the tension.  Arno Frisch and Frank Giering are perfect as the smarmy killers.  Their preppy looks and painfully polite attacks on the family really make them insidious villains.  They are about as evil, and you get and it isn’t fair…they have no right to “win”.

The film looks good.  It does have some of the aesthetics of the grindhouse-like thriller movies and in some ways gives off a Last House on the Left vibe with the isolated country aspect.  The violence isn’t generally seen on screen (another aspect that subverts the genre), but it still is bloody.

funny games 1997 remote control

Easily the most hotly debated scene

Funny Games definitely isn’t for everyone, and I don’t know that it is for me.  I get what it is trying and how it is attempting to do it, but I feel that it needs to more firmly commit to one side or the other…surreal or simply subversive.  I do think it is smart and a clever riff on the overdone and overused genre, and regardless what you think about the movie, it is a talker.  I always prefer that to a movie that leaves you unmoved.  Early on, I felt that the movie was not going to end well for the main characters just due to the tone of the film, and I think that the idea could have been executed without the odd flair…but of course then we wouldn’t have had any version of the smirking acknowledgement of the audience that both Arno Frisch and Michael Pitt mastered in both version.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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