F.I.L.M. of the Week (April 30, 2010)

30 04 2010

Opening today in theaters is the latest “A Nightmare on Elm Street” movie, which will surely provide the same old horror movie shenanigans.  But why settle?  You want to see a movie that can scare you in new and unexpected ways.  Michael Haneke’s “Funny Games” is a different kind of horror, and it proves to be absolutely terrifying.

In fact, terror might be a better word than horror to describe the movie.  It’s not heavily plotted, and it is driven by the sheer terror of the situation that an average family finds themselves in one day at the lake.  Out of nowhere, husband and wife George and Ann (Tim Roth and Naomi Watts) as well as their son Georgie are held captive inside their own vacation home by two sadistic young neighbors (Brady Corbet and Michael Pitt).  They play cruel games with the unsuspecting family and even wager that the three of them will not live past 9:00 AM the next day.  What unfolds is hardly funny as torture, violence, and manipulation make for a truly unforgettable evening.

In case you hadn’t figured it out, this is not a movie for the squeamish or faint at heart.  “Funny Games” is a movie designed to terrify you and make you very uncomfortable, and it succeeds in that regards.  The events that take place are like a worst nightmare for so many people, such as domestic terrorists violating the privacy of a home.

Haneke uses a very different style than the show-it-all shenanigans usually employed by American horror filmmakers.  He is much more restrained and particular about the way he portrays the terror, but it works because of the painful realism that he uses.  I won’t ruin the key quirk of his style, just keep a close eye out for oddities.

Nowadays, movies are quickly divided into “art film” and “mainstream film.”  The beautiful thing about “Funny Games” is that it dabbles in both.  It plays like an art film with its nihilism and deliberate pacing (including one ten-minute shot that will scare the living daylights out of you), but in the middle are drops of that ridiculous American horror that has given us six volumes of “Saw” and eight installments of “A Nightmare on Elm Street.”  If you can muster up the courage to sit through Haneke’s two hours of harrowing terror, you’ll find it refreshing to see a movie that can straddle the line between the two camps of film.