By Fred Topel | Images property of Warner Independent Pictures
I'm always up for a really F'ed up movie. I like films that challenge what you're supposed to do or make you confront disturbing things. It's just annoying when movies promise to do that but wuss out. Funny Games delivers a truly F'ed up thriller and aesthetic experience.
Funny Games Review
When the film follows Ann (Naomi Watts) and George (Tim Roth)'s harmless musical game with harsh heavy metal music and titles obscuring everyone's faces, that's the setup. Paul (Michael Pitt) and Peter (Brady Corbett) insinuate themselves into their vacation, holding the family captive with psychological torments.
First let's talk about the word psychological. How many movies have promised psychological terror only to deliver banal shocks and musical cues? No, psychological is when the situation is not only outrageous, but the implications it has are even worse. Someone can threaten to kill you, but if your death leaves an injured party helpless to find rescue, that's F'ed up.
So Peter and Paul start out just playing with social comfort. They're clearly awkward and you don't like them, but it's not anything you can fault them for at first (except that of course you're putting together the pieces of their plan.) They handle practical matters like taking care of the cell phone, but they start their button pushing early.
The film begins very white, from the very exposure of the film to the light in the house to the pale characters and their white clothes. As the evening progresses, it moves into darkness. I found myself noticing the camera's movements, not revealing what I expected it to at first, then sometimes revealing exactly what you expect. A whole lot happens off camera which creates a fantastic effect, keeping us waiting for the reveal.
It totally breaks the fourth wall too. At first you think they're just playing with it, letting an actor look into the camera but only as if he's focused on what's behind it. By the end, they're breaking all the rules but never in a way that leaves you feeling cheated.
This is how you do dark. Don't apologize for the horrible things you're doing. Go where a situation like this actually would even when Hollywood would prefer to ignore it. This takes Desperate Hours to the next level.