February 10, 2009

#016: Funny Games

I hate watching scary movies.  I don't get any enjoyment out of the fear I feel when seeing the "boogie man" jump out from behind a door.  I can't handle the gore and graphic images of violence and murder. They are ingrained into my memory, and I can't shake the disgusting feeling even after the movie is over.  At the same time I really enjoy the psychological thrillers.  For some reason the fear is different.  I am actually afraid of this thing that has the potential to cause me harm, rather than being afraid of seeing an image that will be burned on my brain for all eternity.  I have probably missed out on a lot of good thrillers because I am too wary of having to sit through the blood and guts.  Every now and then I will get up the courage to watch one of these "scary" movies.  This past weekend I watched the movie Funny Games, and it is seems to have been the perfect scary movie for me.

The 2007 version of Funny Games with Naiomi Watts is a remake of a German movie done by the same director.  It tells the story of a wealthy family that is captured inside of their lake house and tortured by a couple of preppy-looking young men.  This film is unlike any other I have seen in several ways.  First off, it is a movie on its own, but it is also a commentary on the entire horror genre.  It isn't just another scary movie, instead it challenges pretty much everything we expect out of such a film.  It somewhat gives you the formulaic plot, but chooses to do things that no other movie would try.  Also, there are a few instances in this film where the "bad guys" look right into the camera and talk to you, the viewer.  I mean, that is just odd.   I am going to try to describe why I liked the movie without ruining anything for you.  I feel like I am hyping this up way too much.  Don't go into the film feeling like you are going to watch a scary movie that just blows every other scary movie out of the water.  Its not going to do that.  In fact, it is going to do the opposite of that, which I am not sure makes any sense.  To be honest with you, I was more interested than scared during most of the film.

The best way I can describe it is this film dangles a carrot in front of you from the very beginning.  It starts out pretty ambiguous, and builds a little bit of tension.  Then we are shown who the bad guys are, and try to figure out their intentions.  This process seems to be all building towards something, but we are not sure what. Then we wait for the payoff, but it just isn't going to come.  In most horror movies there is some relief in the tension when we see the pretty girl get captured and stabbed to death.  In that moment our fear culminates as we see the violent act, then it is gone until the director chooses to build it up again.  In this movie, the tension just lazily hangs over you.  All of the violence takes place off screen, and we merely see the tame aftermath.  The director never gives you the feeling of "getting off" on the violence.  For me, I really enjoyed what he was trying to do.  I could imagine what was happening, without having it shoved in my face.  There are also points in this film where time just drags on.  The pacing become so slow that it is almost unbearable.  Some people will think, "this is totally stupid", but they are doing that on purpose.  They are forcing you to sit there and endure it.  It is almost as if we are being tortured by having to watch the movie, just as the family is being tortured in the movie.  Usually describing a movie as "torturous to watch"  is a bad thing, but here it is the entire point.  You get lots of time to savor that feeling of unrest that is just sitting there in the pit of your stomach.

Towards the end of this film something takes place that I have never seen in a movie like this before.  I am not going to tell you what it is, but I will say that the movie gives you something, and as soon as you realize what has happened, it takes it right back away from you.  What it gives you will probably make you happy, but then the joy is gone, and you are left to consider why it made you so happy.  I am not going to lie, I had a huge smile on my face, and I am not sure why.  But then once it was taken away I was pissed, and again, I can't explain why.  At the end of this film I felt like I had endured something painful, and gotten no reward for it.  Right at first I actually hated it.  Then as time passed I started to think about it, and understand what it was doing, and I could at least appreciate it.  I have a really hard time recommending this movie.  I mean, I want everybody to see it so I can hear what you think about it.  However, I am not going to sit here and tell you that you have to take the time to watch it.  I think people who really like the genre might have the strongest reaction to this film.  Most will probably hate it, but maybe it will give some insight into your own desire to watch horror movies.  If you are like me, and you don't really like horror movies, then I don't know what to tell you.  I had some fun watching this movie, but I am almost ashamed to admit that.  I went into it knowing what to expect, or at least what not to expect, and that helped with my overall experience.  I think you should watch it, but when it is over don't blame me.  

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