Also, I'll be hanging out with my fellow Fangirls on Fangirl Radio tomorrow night. The episode will be airing NEXT SAT. You can tune into the show 10 PM CST on Saturdays with a replay at 9 PM CST on Sundays: http://www.fangirlmag.com/news/the-second-episode-records-tomorrow-night/
I promise to hound folks about it again when it airs.
MAD JESTER REVIEWS....
Hello, boils and ghouls! (Yes, I wanted you to read that in The Cryptkeeper's voice.)
Name's Mad Jester. Kweeny has kindly consented to let me write a guest review for the blog- a chance at which I leapt. I love sharing my viewpoint on horror movies with people, especially the thought-provoking ones that leave you with philosophical or metaphysical questions. One such movie, I'm glad to report, is a nifty little entry from Warner Independent- a shot-for-shot remake of the 1997 German-language classic, Funny Games.
I'll first discuss the overall gestalt of the movie, before moving on to specific ratings. The film starts kind of slowly: our protagonists arrive at their summer home in upstate New York and begin settling in for a week of sailing and fishing that's never going to occur- when a knock at the door introduces us to one of the creepiest-yet-most-unassuming characters I've ever seen outside of my high school. He claims he's been sent over by his mother for some eggs, but our boy Peter (as we learn shortly) is one of a pair of serial killers working their way through this affluent neighbourhood, and shortly after Paul (his partnert-in-violent-crime) arrives, the pretense is dropped and the 'fun' begins. (For varying definitions of fun, of course- I liked it, but I'm sick in the head.)
Peter and Paul are pretty unique in the field of psycho killers, in a couple of important ways. This is not to say that they stand out in the severity of their violence, or the weight of their presence. In fact, the opposite is true in the latter case: they're unnervingly quiet and unnassuming, the sort you wouldn't expect to be able to look a woman in the eye, let alone shatter a man's patella with his own golf club. To me, this makes them especially creepy- there's almost a clinical detachment there, like it's just a job to them. Which, actually brings me to the second way our clean-cut gore-crows stand out:
They're fully aware they're in a horror movie.
Yeah, you read that right. When the mother (played brilliantly by Naomi Watts) starts asking "Why are you doing this?", Paul acts surprised that they don't know... turns to the camera and speculates whether or not the audience knows why. Looks us right in the eye, the cocky little bastard. And it\s not the only time the fourth wall is destroyed, either- in one scene, Ann (Watts) grabs a shotgun away from Paul (Michael Pitt) and blows a hole in Peter's (Brady Corbet's) stomach- whereupon Peter searches the living room, finds the remote control for their home theater system, REWINDS THE MOVIE THEY'RE IN (as in, the movie you're watching plays backwards) to the beginning of the scene, and prevents her from taking the shotgun away.
It's almost cheating, really, but it works in context. Part of me wants to call shenannigans, and part of me wishes Freddy were able to do that.
Further muddying the waters in the river between fiction and reality is one of the final scenes, in which Peter and Paul get into a discussion on the relative 'realness' of fiction, and how it can interact with the 'real' world. One can't help but be called back to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead- which is funny, because Tim Roth, who played Guildenstern, plays the father George in Funny Games. Maybe Roth just has a penchant for existentialism.
In all, I'd say that Funny Games succeeds as a horror movie, because the almost-subtle malice engendered by Peter & Paul (or Tom & Jerry, or Beavis & Butthead- they call each other by different names at different times) is almost like an empty vessel or blank slate, in that they all but cry out to project our fears onto them, while maintaining an air of genteel civility. (While tormenting an innocent family.) The dread doesn't come from the impending violence- you see it coming far enough away that it doesn't shock- but more from seeing how they'll behave while they do what they do. And of course, they know they're doing it all for us.
Which makes us the monsters. And that's just goddamned cool.
Now, onto the specific scores:
Tension/ Dread: 8/10
As stated previously, the tension doesn't come from the acts, but the behaviour, and the existential nature of the film. This stuff could happen, does happen all the time in the real world... but not like this. (At least I HOPE not like this- that'd be just a little too A Serbian Film for my liking!) It starts off leading one to think the film's a minor-key home-invasion torture-porn outing, and pleasantly surprises one with the Left Hook of Metaphysical Ponderance.
The only real issue here is that some shots are framed so that the violence happens just off-camera- which sometimes works to build tension, and sometimes does not. There are also some minor pacing issues in some scenes, with establishing shots being held a little long. Nothing glaring, but it does throw off the rythm somewhat. This may be intentional, but I found it slightly jarring.
Wow. It's not very often that I revise my opinion of an actor's performance in the middle thereof, but Pitt and Corbett's characters transition so smoothly from 'slightly creepy kids' to 'decadent sociopaths' that one almost has to watch the scene again to see just what the Hell happened. Watts plays the brave suburban housewife to the hilt, and Roth's weak-kneed (HA!) dad is impeccable.
Gore : 4/10
It's just not that gory a film, but then, it doesn't have to be. The point is never the violence. This movie does a great job of making one's jaw drop without having to saw off limbs. There's blood, of course, but not the great honking buckets of it that one sees in, say, Hostel or the like. Which is fine- they can't all be The Audition, nor would I want them to be.
Villain Charisma: 5/10
Peter and Paul aren't as likeable as some horror movie baddies, but that's kind of the point. They're not there for us to relate to, they're there to alienate us and make us uncomfortable. Which puts me in rather an awkward spot- I like them because they're uniquely unlikeable.
So there, gentle readers, is my review of Funny Games. In short, if you want a smart piece of horror that'll leave you staring at the screeen saying "Huh!" to yourself a few times, bear this little gem in mind.