Sunday, December 28, 2008

Funny Games (2007)

Fear 5

Gore 3

Entertainment 5

Creepiness 5

Life has been crazy this year. I've survived two rounds of layoffs and a kick to the nuts of a holiday season. But make no bones about it, I have been steadily watching horror films over the past 6 months and this is the first of many reviews of films that have truly shocked the piss out of me.

Funny Games is an English version remake of a film originally released in 1997 in Germany (same director, different cast). Hot on the tails of many films this year released with a home invasion type of theme (see Complaint Departments review of 'ILs', AKA 'Them', 'The Strangers', etc.), this is by far the most shocking of the handful or so that I have seen (I know the film was released in 2007 but it hit video store shelves this year).

The film starts off startlingly enough with a family of well-to-do yuppies, traveling in their car singing a la Griswald style but over their words, some good ol' grindcore music assails your ear holes. Truly a jolt to the system and this is literally the only music/soundtrack that is heard in the entire film. The family pulls up to a country club, gives a 'Good day to you, govnuh' to a friend playing the golf course and heads off to their home on a lake for a week of relaxation and family fun.

So the family of four (mother, father, son, dog) settle in for the week and the wife begins to prepare dinner for the family. The boy and his father take out their boat that they had hauled to the dock. A teenage boy who is attired in full golf garb (gloves, polo shirt and some other Ralph Lauren shit) shows up at the house asking the wife for eggs because the neighbor lady ran out. The soft spoken kid spooks the crap out of you right away and something just does not sit right with you from the word 'go'. After an awkward conversation with the wife (played by the always hot Naomi Watts) in which she is clearly creeped out, he receives a carton of eggs. He comes back only moments later claiming the family dog jumped up, startled him and he dropped the eggs. He asks for more, and at this point the wife is clearly annoyed and wants this kid to go away (she's pretty much getting the heebie jeebies from him too). When she refuses to give the kid more eggs, his twin brother (also dressed in the exact same attire) pops up out of nowhere wondering what all the fuss is about. When the father (played by Tim Roth) comes to the door after all the comotion, one of the twins grabs a golf club in the hallway and takes out the fathers knee caps. Cue madness and the slow and methodical evolution of a film that is truly gripping from start to finish. Oh yeah and did I forget to mention the teens first killed the family dog to shut him up and stuffed him in the back of their car (all of this happening within the first 20 min. of the film)?

So the wonder twins tie up the family and pretty much torture the hell out of them for the rest of the film. They make them question their loyalty and love for one another as each of them decide the others fate in a serious of 'funny games'. You never get an answer as to why these teens are doing what they are doing and they tell various stories as to why they are so seriously deranged. The film is so engrossing in both the stories these kids tell and the various acts that they commit upon the family, that you almost don't notice them turning to you and looking into the camera, as if you are a willing participant to all of the madness that is unfolding. After the second time it happens, it finally dawned upon me that each teen takes turns looking at you the viewer, almost acknowledging your existence and your participation in the events as they unfold.

One of the most disturbing films that I've seen as there is no resolution or explanation as to why the teens are doing what they are doing, Funny Games is not for the faint of heart. I had to pick my slumped self off the couch. Truly a terrifying movie watching experience.

Cortez the Killer

Friday, December 19, 2008

Ils (2006)

Fear 3
Gore 1
Entertainment 4
Creepiness 3

Hard to say whether or not The Strangers is a remake of this small French creep-out. They are remarkably similar in all kinds of ways. Both are supposedly based on true events, both sets of events are impossible to verify. Both are about a couple trapped in a remote location being terrorized by a small group of people for absolutely no reason at all. Both have a gritty, 70's style tone that's sleazy and low-budge, but maintain style and great tension. Both are scary with minimal gore and both are grim and depressing. So, you be the judge. No scratch that - I'll be the judge: these are the same movie.

But I've already reviewed The Strangers. I liked it. Ils I also liked. The story is very simple: a French couple moves to Romania where one teaches and one writes. The day ends, they hang out a bit and head off to bed. Then they are terrorized by some shady, hidden and creepy dudes for the rest of the film. It's really that simple. And, of course, that is why it works.

Once this film kicks in, it basically stays balls to the wall until the end. It's dark and spooky, with jolts and scares that can be seen coming from miles away- but still get you. It plays off the fact that a) this is a true story (doubtful) and b) this could happen to anyone at anytime (mmmm, yeah ok.)

If you like your horror tense, dark, creepy and frankly, scary, you'll like this one. If you don't like movies that are in French...maybe not.

Complaint Department