Funny Games

The blood may look real, but the movie's bogus. Peter (Frank Giering) and Paul (Arno Frisch) are a pair of young thrill-killers in short pants who show up at the lakeside vacation home of Anna (Susanne Lothar), Georg (Ulrich Muhe) and their young son Georgie (Stefan Clapczynski). Claiming to be friends of a neighbor, the boys are at first friendly and polite,...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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The blood may look real, but the movie's bogus. Peter (Frank Giering) and Paul (Arno Frisch) are a pair of young thrill-killers in short pants who show up at the lakeside vacation home of Anna (Susanne Lothar), Georg (Ulrich Muhe) and their

young son Georgie (Stefan Clapczynski). Claiming to be friends of a neighbor, the boys are at first friendly and polite, but something's not quite right: Baby-faced Peter seems willfully clumsy and soon becomes petulant and vaguely insulting; Paul treats Anna and Georg with thinly veiled

contempt; and those pristine white gloves the boys are wearing are a bad sign. When Georg and Anna finally try to evict their uninvited guests, violence erupts and a nightmare begins: The family is held hostage in their own home as Peter and Paul force them into a series of "games" -- which

include a nasty round of "kitten in a bag" that involves little Georgie and a pillowcase -- and a long night of psychological and physical torture ensues. German director Michael Haneke takes most of his cues from the brutal proto-slasher films of the '70s -- low-budget hack-'em-ups like THE LAST

HOUSE ON THE LEFT and HOUSE BY THE LAKE -- the best of which automatically raised serious questions about spectatorship, violence and entertainment, then shoved them down your throat. Haneke's approach is unnecessarily self-conscious: His characters literally wink at the camera and openly

interrogate the audience, and the effect is much less effective and disruptively obvious. That said, the first half is sadistically intense, Geiring and Frisch make wonderfully creepy psychopaths, and Haneke and cinematographer Jurgen Jurges burnish the film to a high polish that's rare

for the genre.

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