Monday, March 3, 2008

Fun and Games?

So I don't know if any of you have had a chance to see the trailer for the new horror film Funny Games, but Brandon and I saw it last night prior to watching Michael Clayton on DVD. The film looks interesting to say the least and the poster for the film is interesting. I am torn on my initial reaction to the films trailer (which is below), which is a blatant rip-off of Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange and Sam Peckinpah's Straw Dogs. What's interesting is when I looked the film up, I found that it was a remake of director Michael Haneke's (who made the brilliant Cache) original 1997 Austrian film.

I don't know how I feel about remakes by the same filmmakers. I know this has been done before (I think with a Spanish horror film, but I can't remember the name) but watching the original trailer and seeing the trailer for the new film with Tim Roth and Naomi Watts, I couldn't help but feel this will be a shot-for-shot version of his Austrian film. Which is fine, I haven't seen that version, so I won't notice the difference. There are just a few things I want to tackle here:

1. The trailer is a lot like what Paul Thomas Anderson did with There Will Be Blood. Just one look at the trailer and you can see Kubrick written all over it. Even the all white outfits (Michael Pitt has a golf club instead of the cane that Malcolm McDowell carried around) evoke the imagery of A Clockwork Orange. The big red letters in the trailer with the classical music also seem like they were lifted right out of a Kubrick films promotional campaign.

2. The "horror" of this movie. I really don't know how I will react to the film. The preview definitely has a Straw Dogs feel to it, and I hated Straw Dogs. There seem to be glimpses of rape, violence, and Naomi Watts giving her body up to save her family all in the two minute trailer. The imagery is enough to make me think twice about wanting to sit through a film like this, and the films promotional poster of Naomi Watts crying is a tough image to swallow. The film will be hard to take, but in what manner will it present its horror? That will be the key to whether or not it is horrifying, or merely exploitation.

3. I really hope that the psychological aspect of this film outweighs the need to shock with rape and violence. Michael Pitt looks real creepy, and his character seems to be having fun doing what he does. That is not where the problem could be. This could be a Last House on the Left type of film, but it could also go completely off track and just be an excuse to show an hour of a poor woman being raped and humiliated in front of her husband and child.

4. This type of horror film can be done well because it relies on our fear intrusion and our safe little bubbles we occupy being burst with shocking violence and nihilism. The trailer makes me think of Ian McEwan's novel Saturday or the French film Irreversible where there are moments of shock and horror and unease, but they are done in a way that don't seem exploited. Irreversible succeeded because it chose to show its most horrifying imagery (a brutal rape and murder) at the very beginning of the film, and then it worked its way backwards revealing what the lives of the couple was like before that horrible day. The time-altering gimmick gave a certain amount of poignancy towards an otherwise ugly film, as we see how happy the couple was, and wish to hell that we could stop the unstoppable events of the future.

I am hoping that Funny Games doesn't fall into the "cute" horror category where they think they are being clever and referential to other revered filmmakers, therefore elevating the content of their film. The films tagline really bothers me too: "You must admit you brought this upon yourself." Ugh. To me that just gives me the sense that this is going to be that kind of smug horror film where the wealthy and happy family is punished for being a wealthy and happy family. Unless there is some major swerve where we learn that they really did deserve this, than okay, I could maybe see that, but if it is just a Straw Dogs type situation where the woman is raped because she is American and good looking, and then we have to linger on that scene forever, well count me out. I am conflicted on the film, covering up horror with comedy is fine, but it's all in the execution, and one wrong move could turn this into I Spit On Your Grave territory, and all these thoughts are just from the trailer, so they are doing something right in promoting this film, because even though I am unsure whether I will run out and see the film, one thing is certain: the trailer has me talking about it.


  1. We watched Michael Clayton the other night and saw the same preview...I just said "huh, looks like a ripoff of Clockwork Orange and Straw Dogs."

    Not quite sure what to think of it beyond that. I'll be surprised if it has anything to add to a genre that seems to only have one or two outcomes, although it could still take all those cliches and make a tense film, but that's mostly due to my skepticism of any modern day film being able to pull off that atmosphere anymore. Most of these modern films are simply too self-aware to do that well.

    My guess is the producers are trying to have it both ways -- on the one hand they want it to be seen as dark, cynical satire of some nature (at least that's what the trailer seems to scream out, especially with the obvious homage to Clockwork Orange). That is NOT a horror film. However, the poster, as you point out, is trying to make it come across as a horror film, or at least a woman-in-peril type of film. Odd to say the least.

    I will give them this -- I would have likely dismissed this film out-of-hand without a trailer like that to at least arouse some kind of curiosity, so perhaps they know what they are doing.

    Time to watch RAW now...Orton, HHH, and Cena are about to announce something big.