A scene-for-scene remake of director Michael Haneke's own, same-named 1997 Austrian film, Funny Games has more on its mind than startling displays of blood and terror. In fact, the violent acts themselves occur off-screen -- though the very nasty effects are underscored in long, often immobile takes. Ann, George, and Georgie repeatedly appear in tears, their faces bruised and fearful, while their tormentors taunt them with stories of damaged childhoods and twisted intentions (Paul demands that they make a bet with him, that "in 12 hours all three of you are gonna be kaput"). Scene after scene shows the debilitating effects of such emotional and physical stress, as the day wears into night and no good end appears possible.
When George asks why they don't just kill the family now, Paul smiles wanly: "You should not forget the importance of entertainment." Indeed, this is the film's focus. On one level, it makes viewers pay for its implied violence (rather than indulging in the dubious pleasures of "torture porn" like Saw). On another level, the film presses its point harder. At first, Paul and Peter seem like standard movie psychos, their cherubic faces almost more chilling than their utter contempt for their victims. But then Paul begins to address the camera directly, asking what "you" might want to see. When at last he stops a scene that has gone "wrong," grabs a TV remote, rewinds it, and replays it to accommodate his own ends, the film has lurched from regular horror into meta territory. At once intellectual and difficult to see, it is, ironically, all about watching.