Tag Archives: Funny Games

Option C — Funny Games

By Steven Moore

This week was both my choice and my pairing on Buried Cinema. This has only happened once before, and it happened to be last week, with Tom pairing The Wolverine with Cop Land. Of course, I couldn’t bear to let Tom have the glory, so this week I took the Choice, the Pairing, and Option C. Take that, Tom.

I chose a movie we had previously attempted to discuss on the podcast, Stoker. We’ve covered director Chan-wook Park’s work on the podcast before, and we wanted to review his first English-language effort. Unfortunately, it was in limited release, and Nate lives in West Virginia, where movies made by a man who uses his last name as his first name ain’t ‘Merican.

Although I’d decided on the pick and pairing, Ruby Sparks, before watching either of the movies, after watching Stoker I knew the obvious pairing would have been Funny Games. I have only seen the 2007 American version of Michael Haneke’s Funny Games, but it is a shot-for-shot remake of his original German film from 1997. That’s right, it’s a movie  he loved so much he made it twice, just with different actors and in a different language.


You know what would make this creepier? English.

You know what would make this creepier? English.


Honestly, the only reason I didn’t change my pairing to this movie was that I would have had to watch it again. I’ve never watched a movie that left me so angry and frustrated, so lost in helplessness. Watching Funny Games was traumatic, in the full clinical, psychological sense of the word. Something will remind me of the movie — a sailboat on a small lake, a TV remote control — and I still get those emotions of frustration and helplessness rising up. I’ve had many nightmares about this movie.

Perhaps the most frustrating thing about Funny Games is that the trauma it induces, the anger and frustration and disgust, is all completely intentional. This was Michael Haneke’s sole purpose. This is why he made the movie. If you don’t come away from this movie traumatized, he hasn’t accomplished his goal. (Mission accomplished, Mikey.) After watching his Oscar-winning Amour, I am convinced that he is a director who hates his audience. He is disgusted by the idea of people sitting back in a chair and expecting to be entertained. He seems to be making movies that punish the audience for liking movies.

Based on all I’ve said, you may think I didn’t like Funny Games, and you’d be partially right — but it is also brilliant. Every shot has purpose, every frame is beautifully composed, and he can pull some of the most heart-wrenching or terrifying performances out of his actors that I’ve ever seen. A movie can’t have the kind of impact on its audience that this movie had on me without a great director behind the scenes. Because of this, he may be one of the greatest filmmakers of all time who I never want to watch another movie by.


Michael Heneke hates you...and loves you.

Michael Haneke hates you… and loves you.


At this point, you may be wondering why I haven’t discussed any of the plot or characters of the movie, and that’s mainly out of respect for the filmmaker. I feel that to experience this movie as the filmmaker wanted, you must go into it without any knowledge of what is going to happen. I don’t ever want to watch it again, but it is a movie worth watching, and I don’t want to take that experience away from anyone.

Of course, all of this is why I so desperately want to make the other guys on Buried Cinema watch the movie. More than any other movie, I want to discuss this one with them. I just have to build up the courage to watch it again.


About the Author:

Steve was just a hapless young kid who couldn’t get into Starfleet, but by sheer wit, determination, and a hell of a lot of luck, he was made full ensign of Starfleet’s flagship anyway, despite having never even attended the Academy. He told me I could write anything I wanted about him here, as long as I said that he was like Nate, but better. When he’s not brooding over the graves of dead Irish poets, he is our talented Webmaster. We also record our podcast in his barn, so we’d be doubly non-existent without his considerable talents… and barn. His favorite films include Chinatown, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and anything Brian hates.

30 Days of Madness: Day 31

Well, I made it through 30 Days of Madness none too worse for the wear. The only major difference in my life is a series of YouTube videos that show me, a shy introvert who never was much for public performance, occasionally acting like a lunatic for all the world to see. Did I learn anything? I learned I never want to do anything this intense again. I learned a lot about the history of cinema. I learned a lot about my own abilities in film criticism. I reaffirmed that, especially when it comes to horror movies, there are a lot of good ones, a lot of bad ones, and a lot of stuff that is just plain ugly.

Let me take a quick look back over the movies I’ve watched this month of October:

Day 1: Nightbeast (1982) Hey, my first movie was from the year of my birth. How fitting. My inaugural flick was my personal introduction to Troma and one of the worst movies I’d ever seen, but one I would watch again with friends. My response video was only my second YouTube video, after my introductory video which is available for viewing on my channel, http://www.youtube.com/user/KapriciousT.

Day 2: Redneck Zombies (1987) My second Troma movie, and the first movie I ever refused to finish. I would like to wash my memory clean of this one. This one I actually was watching with friends (the only time during the month I was able to do so), and I was embarrassed about it.

Day 3: The Call of Cthulhu (2005) My third movie was a huge step up in quality, one that I would recommend to anyone, horror fan or not, and one that I would watch again by myself or with friends.

Day 4: Puppet Master (1989) My fourth day, I started having a little more fun with the video responses. This is actually my first scripted video to appear on the Internet–at least, the first one that I scripted. (There are one or two other videos floating around out there featuring my acting skills.) I would definitely watch this one again with friends.

Day 5: The Black Cat (2007) Surprisingly, the best thing I watched this month–for this project. (I’m not counting The Social Network or Amélie, which I watched almost immediately after finishing up with Day 30. Call it a palate-cleanser.) I may watch this one again, but it was so horrifying, I might have to wait awhile. I highly recommend it only for people with a high threshold for gore and horror, and especially for cinephiles and fans of Edgar Allan Poe.

Day 6: My Name Is Bruce (2008) Possibly the most disappointing movie I watched this month, in terms of expectations I had going into it, but also possibly the most fun I had doing the YouTube response. I might begrudgingly watch it again with other people.

Day 7: Pandorum (2009) Possibly the most pleasant surprise. (The Black Cat, while amazing, was one of the most horrific things I’ve ever watched and a bit difficult to get through.) I had a great time watching this one, and I’d watch it again by myself or with friends. I’d recommend it to most people.

Day 8: Zombies of Mass Destruction (2009) The second movie I refused to finish. The humor went from obnoxious to ridiculous to offensive. Nowhere near the level of Redneck Zombies, but not one I care to ever revisit.

Day 9: Funny Games (1997) One of the toughest movies I had to watch, and even more difficult formulating a response. This may be the most personally contentious film I’ve ever watched. I would not recommend this to anyone but serious film students. I had a great time doing the video though. Mmmm-bananas.

Day 10: Black Sabbath (1963) This was a really boring one, maybe not even worth watching with friends. I might revisit it at some point for a more in-depth review though.

Day 11: Fright Night (1985) Probably the movie in which my mood most changed (for the better) from the beginning to the end. I started out hating it and by the end was legitimately enjoying it. I’d watch it again, alone or with friends.

Day 12: Sometimes They Come Back (1991) I doubt I’ll ever bother with this one again in any setting.

Day 13: The Fly (1986) One I had been meaning to see for years, and I am glad I finally did. It was one of my favorites of the month, and I highly recommend it. Horrifying, humorous, heartbreaking. I’d watch it again alone or with friends.

Day 14: The Phantom of the Opera (1925) A classic, but one I probably will never sit through completely again, unless I get to see one of the other edits of the film floating around. Definitely worth revisiting for certain scenes and for its importance to cinema. Also, my first silent video response.

Day 15: Lo (2009) One of the true pleasant surprises of the month, and one that has appreciated the more I’ve thought, written, and talked about. Not only would I like to watch it again, I almost feel like I need to, as I’d be seeing it from a completely different perspective thanks to the way the plot wraps up. Did a Flickchart segment in my video, which is less interesting when it’s just me talking. Also gave me a chance to talk up http://www.Flickchart.com and http://blog.flickchart.com/index.php/category/flickfights.

Day 16: The Burrowers (2008) This one, I wasn’t sure how to feel about it immediately after watching it. It’s a well-made movie that doesn’t have a very good ending, and is also one of the most depressing things I’ve ever seen. I may never watch it again, but I’m glad I saw it once.

Day 17: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) The final scene of this film still makes me uneasy to think about it. It’s definitely one of the best of the 70s-80s horror. I may watch it again someday, maybe with friends who could handle it.

Day 18: White Zombie (1932) The article in which I started doing a scene-by-scene recap but had no time to finish. I’d like to go back and finish, possibly to use in another project that I’ll be working on in conjunction with IncidentalDog.com. If you’re as big a fan of http://AgonyBooth.com as I am, you already have an idea of what I’m going for.

Day 19: Peeping Tom (1960) There was a lot to laugh at and a lot to admire, but I don’t know if I’ll ever watch it again.

Day 20: Planet of the Vampires (1965) A movie that is as important as it is ludicrous, I’d love to go back and do more of an in-depth critique of this film. This one would probably be fun to watch with friends.

Day 21: Ringu (1998) The one I realized I never wrote an article for. I’d been wanting to see this film for years. Now that I have, I can compare it with the American remake, which I love. I may go back and explore these two films in an actual complete article.

Day 22: The Last House on the Left (1972) One of the biggest surprises of the month, in how poorly made a movie it is. I’ve heard that it’s a must-see in the horror genre, but it’s really not. And it’s too unpleasant to be fun for a group or for a scene-by-scene recap. As far as the video response goes, there were apparently a few people who watched it without having watched my video response for Ringu. I appreciate everybody almost calling to make sure I was okay.

Day 23: Fido (2006) I’d been waiting for a real good zombie flick, and Fido delivered. The messy ending and some less-good performances kept it from perfection, but I’d watch it again anytime. And it’s a PG-13 zombie film, which is just weird.

Day 24: The Masque of the Red Death (1964) I’d recommend this film for just about anyone. It’s well enough constructed to be respectable, but there’s also plenty to have fun with. I might like to revisit this one for a more in-depth look someday.

Day 25: Empire of the Ants (1977) This was one of the most ludicrous films I watched this month, but it would be a lot of fun to watch with a group of friends or to do an extended review of. I totally forgot about all those fake giant ants I had sitting around when I did the video response. Oh well.

Day 26: The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953) Another respectable but slightly-cheesy flick I’d watch again, especially with a group.

Day 27: The Washingtonians (2007) I paid the price for cheating on choosing the next movie title out of my jack-o-lantern in the previous YouTube video, because this movie was awful in every way. I don’t think I could tolerate sitting through it again.

Day 28: Cat’s Eye (1985) Much like Fright Night, I was much more into this movie at the end than I was in the beginning. This would be fun to watch with a group. Also, a note on my YouTube video: I learned that the deep guttural growl of a cat does not pick up on my laptop mic, so while my cat sounded really pissed off to me, to the audience it looks like I’m just holding a silent cat. Oh well. Crazy is as crazy does, I guess.

Day 29: Attack of the Puppet People (1958) I’m glad I got to bring back Shakes and Lefty for this one, because they are much more interesting than I am in the videos. Attack would be fun to do a more in-depth review of. Maybe someday.

Day 30: Sugar Hill (1974) I did not choose Sugar Hill at random. I did it as a present to my friends who chose it for my jack-o-lantern and kept mentioning how much they wished it would come up. They may be underwhelmed, though, because I enjoyed the movie alright. Sorry, honks, it wasn’t nearly as awful as you were hoping.

I am so happy to be done with this so I can start watching other movies I’ve been wanting to watch. Between watching the movies, preparing and recording the YouTube videos, and writing the articles, it took roughly four hours per movie, so this frees up my time a fair bit. One final thing I’d been wanting to do is some sort of a Top Horror list, so what I did was, I went back through all the titles available for instant streaming on Netflix and chose what I consider to be the 31 best horror films (out of what I’ve seen–there still are a ton of horror flicks on there I’ve never watched).

Some are relentlessly horrific. Some aren’t specifically horror films but still have a strong element of horror in some aspect of the narrative. Here are my Top 31 picks (an asterisk indicates a title from the 30 Days of Madness):

1. Aliens (1986)

2. An American Werewolf in London (1981)

3. The Black Cat (2007)*

3. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)

4. The Call of Cthulhu (2005)*

5. Carrie (1976)

6. Child’s Play (1988)

7. The Crazies (2010)

8. Creepshow (1982)

9. Diabolique (1955)

10. District 9 (2009)

11. The Exorcist (1973)

12. Fido (2006)*

13. The Fly (1986)*

14. The Host (2006)

15. Interview with the Vampire (1994)

16. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)*

17. Jaws (1975)

18. Lo (2009)*

19. Night of the Living Dead (1968)

20. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

21. Nosferatu (1922)

22. Pandorum (2009)*

23. Paranormal Activity (2007)

24. Peeping Tom (1960)*

25. The Phantom of the Opera (1925)*

26. Reign of Fire (2002)

27. Signs (2002)

28. The Sixth Sense (1999)

29. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

30. Them! (1954)

31. Zombieland (2009)

Thank you Alban, Nate, and Steve for your support this past month, and to everyone else who left encouraging comments along the way. Thanks to Cindy (my dog) and Putty and Kunj (my cats) for their appearances, and special thanks to Jack-o, Shakes, and Lefty. Finally, thank you to the film makers whose good films made the bad ones more bearable. Happy Halloween.

–Tom Kapr

30 Days of Madness, Day 9: Funny Games

Funny Games (1997) Written & directed by Michael Haneke. Starring: a bunch of Germans.

Funny Games is like a cinematic version of entrapment. Michael Haneke, the writer/director of this film, seeks to make his viewers complicit in the psychopathic behavior of his characters. In effect, the psychopaths are a projection of their creator, doing his will to ensnare the audience and make them complicit in the voyeuristic violence he has concocted. Haneke even breaks the fourth wall several times when his character speaks directly to the audience. The director is doing with his audience as his characters are doing with each other — the film is his game. The audience has an implied choice, then: Keep watching, keep playing his game and be complicit in the outcome; or, leave the theater, turn off the DVD, close the Netflix window. You can do that; you have that choice.

I came to this understanding, in a much less fully-realized way than I am now elucidating, about halfway through the movie. Had I not been planning to write this article, I would have turned the movie off, simply because, realizing what Haneke’s game was, I didn’t want to play it. I would have made the decision not to keep playing, not to be complicit. (At least, I’m pretty sure I would have… oh, those tricky hypotheticals.)

Yes, he is winking at the audience.

But, I’ve turned off two other movies on moral grounds already during this month-long movie-watching project, so I decided to stick it out. I did, however, check out of the film emotionally. The second half of the film, for me, became more of an intellectual endeavor, to see what the director’s endgame was so that I could try to formulate a response to it. Or, maybe I was just waiting for it to end so I could honestly say I watched it. Either way, his endgame pissed me off a little bit–which, regardless of my personal feelings, I won’t spoil here. Suffice it to say that there was an exact point at which I wanted to pick up the remote and throw it at the screen. I can’t turn emotion off completely, it seems.

I am glad I turned off my emotional involvement as much as I was able, though; otherwise, I’m quite sure the events dramatized here would have had a much more devastating impact on my mind. I have three more weeks of this project to get through, and I’d like to escape with some of my sanity intact.

I guess I’ll end with this: I do find it intellectually interesting, what Haneke was doing with this film. It does make me ask the question: what does my watching this say about me as a moviegoer? But it also makes me ask the question: what does this say about the director?

This bit of trivia from the Internet Movie Database may hold a clue to the answer to both questions: “Director Michael Haneke told producer Veit Heiduschka during the production that if the film was a success, it would be because audiences had misunderstood the meaning behind it.”

My Netflix rating: I don’t know what to do here. My gut response is that I hated watching this movie, but it has suddenly broadened my understanding of the medium. I feel like it’s an important movie, but I’d never recommend it to anyone. It’s a movie that people should talk about but not actually watch. Ouch, my head….

Haneke also remade this film (shot-for-shot, from what I hear) for English-speaking audiences, with two actors I always love, Naomi Watts and Tim Roth. There is a part of me that wishes I had watched that instead of his original German version, though in the end I doubt it would have made much difference, except that I would have been able to see Watts and Roth’s performances. As it is, the two who play the husband and wife in the German original, Ulrich Muhe and Susanne Lothar, are stellar, though I pity what they had to endure to get to those emotional (and subsequently physical) places they had to reach.