Funny Games in our minds
Funny Games (1997) dir. Michael Haneke

Michael Haneke's 1997 Austrian film Funny Games (and the 2007 American shot-by-shot remake) is a horror that constantly asks viewers why they keep watching.

Funny GamesA family arrives at a lake house for a vacation. They chat with their neighbors, but each of the lake's homes are far apart enough to leave each of them isolated. While they settle in, a stranger comes to the door. He is a young man named Peter, dressed in white and wearing white gloves, and he asks to borrow eggs from Anna, the family's mother. His accomplice, Paul, soon joins him. Paul hits the father, Georg, with a golf club, crippling him.

Peter and Paul (who refer to each other as "Tom and Jerry" or "Beevis and Butthead") spend the rest of the day psychologically and physically torturing the family, promising to kill them all.

The violence in Funny Games is a bit of a paradox. Although most of the worst violence is off-screen, it feels more horrifying and awful than most of the "torture porn" that has come out since.

"In general, things that are not shown and that the spectator needs to imagine with his own fantasy can be much stronger than the things that are actually shown," Haneke told cine-fils magazine.


It is our imagination - and not the movie - that conjures up the most disturbing images.

Funny Games - Plausible PlotPaul breaks the third wall several times during the film. He winks at the camera, says they must keep the torture going because "we haven't even reached feature-film length yet." Late in the movie, he even puts it on pause, rewinds and starts again, in order to prevent his victims from escaping.

Funny Games - bloody televisionThis way, Haneke reminds us that everything "happening" in the movie is our fault. We're the ones wanted to watch a horror movie. If we don't want to see a family tortured to death, we can leave the theater or turn off the TV. And Haneke isn't even showing us the real violence -- that's all in our minds.