movies: Double take; FUNNY GAMES (18, 111 MINS) 5/10 (IF YOU'VE SEEN THE ORIGINAL) 8/10 (IF NOT) In a nutshell: Genuinely tense remake.
Remade virtually shot for shot, Funny Games is a violent and provocative thriller about a normal family facing the nightmare ordeal of a home invasion.
The Austrian writer-director transplants the brutality from Europe to a picturesque lakeside home in Long Island, an ominously tranquil setting for the sadistic mind games that leave us teetering on the edge of our seats ... so long as you haven't been scared witless by the original.
The film's impact depends on the element of surprise, so for the first time ever I'm forced to award two different ratings.
Fans of the 1997 version will find this new Funny Games an almost pointless facsimile.
There's a stronger female influence the second time around, with Naomi Watts' incendiary performance leaving screen husband Tim Roth firmly in the shadows, and an extended escape sequence.
However, the change of setting doesn't spark any new narrative twists and the coup de grace with a television remote control will divide audiences as sharply today as it did some 10 years ago.
Anna (Naomi Watts), George (Tim Roth) and their young son Georgie (Devon Gearheart) arrive at their summer retreat.
Father and son continue to renovate the family's sailboat while Anna prepares lunch, only to be interrupted by Peter (Brady Corbet), who has been sent from next door for some eggs.
The wife feels increasingly uncomfortable in the stranger's presence and is glad when George and Georgie arrive, with Peter's friend Paul (Michael Pitt) in tow.
Anna's mounting dread is realised when Paul makes a thinly veiled threat against her loved ones.
"Listen young man, I don't know what kind of game you're playing ..." begins George, just as Paul raises a golf club and practices his swing on the older man's legs.
Held hostage in their summer home at the mercy of the twisted duo, Anna, George and Georgie become pawns in the ultimate game of survival.
"You bet that by nine o'clock tomorrow you'll be alive and we bet you'll be dead," grins Paul.
Funny Games is horribly tense.
Stomachs churn with each explosion of violence as the family tries valiantly to escape its predicament.
Watts delivers a tour de force performance as the embattled mother, who risks her life to shield her family.
The scene in which she wriggles free of her restraints and runs for help, shot in an agonising single take, will have you biting your nails to the cuticle.
Roth's father is disappointingly weak in comparison - it's little wonder Paul tells Georgie, "You see how your mummy fights for you? Your dad can learn something from her".
Pitt and Corbet are deliciously evil in their roles as the hunters, who delight in goading their prey.
Their motivation is never explained. Nothing is more chilling than the unknown.
TERROR IN THE HOME: Michael Pitt and Devon Gearhart in Michael Haneke's Funny Games
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|Publication:||Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)|
|Date:||Apr 7, 2008|
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