“Funny Games” for Naomi Watts

That’s not to be confused with “fun and games.” It’s funny in that special way where “side-splitting” is no longer a metaphor for hilarity but possibly a literal part of the script. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Here’s the scoop: Naomi Watts has joined Tim Roth in a reauthored Hollywood version of Michael Haneke‘s 1997 thriller, Funny Games.

Watts’s other foray into the brutal and the bizarre is the one movie that still gives me occasional nightmares, all these years later. Yeah, The Ring, I’m talking to you. Get out of my head!

If you haven’t heard of the original Funny Games, that’s because it’s a German-language movie, and we all know how much patience the general American public has with subtitles. (Although this movie possibly could have something to say to English-speaking audiences without the English language. I mean, does terrorizing a family with golf clubs really need translation?)

In a decade where original thought seems to escape much of the Hollywood machine and everybody’s anxious to remake horror classics for teen audiences (just with more blood), it’s not a surprise to see another project in the pipeline. This particular film is technically not an adaptation but a shot-for-shot remake of the original. (A logical choice. That worked out so well for Anne Heche. And for director George Sluizer. Remember The Vanishing? I didn’t think so). The major change for this version of Funny Games, of course, is that it’s now in English for English-speaking audiences. You know, so we can enjoy the terror without that pesky problem of having to read.

Here’s a still of Watts in her role as Anna, wife and mother of a happy family on vacation.

I love when directors take an actress with unearthly beauty and dress her in polka dots, just to show how normal she is. It’s so believable. Here’s another look at that outfit.

The guy in the first still, who turns out to be the neighborhood psychopath, is asking to borrow some eggs. Except he’s less inclined to take his eggs and leave than to gaze lustfully at a set of golf clubs. And when he’s joined by an equally creepy and whitewashed friend, the “funny games” for the creepy duo (played by Michael Pitt and Brady Corbet) begin. Personally, I wouldn’t have let either of them in the house. White cotton gloves and a golf club fetish? Clearly a sign of mental illness. Anyway, in this case, funny games means funny imprisonment and funny sadistic torture, not to mention a funny gamble: Will the guys win and manage to kill the family? Or will the family live until tomorrow?

Reportedly, the film will be less gorno and more, er, psychologicalorn-o. Well. That almost worked. But here’s the trailer, so you can judge for yourself.



Is it a black comedy? Is it a thriller? Damn you, Edvard Grieg: Your “In the Hall of the Mountain King” makes the perfect musical accompaniment to both ironic brutality and comedy noir. And while I’m on the subject, can I take this moment to ask, why do films scores associate my most beloved classics with violence and terror? Beethoven’s Ninth? The Goldberg Variations? I’m enough of a film nerd to know that the “Mountain King” is a nod to Fritz Lang’s thriller M, and I’m sure that was original in back in 1931, but sometimes I like to sit through a symphony without post-traumatic associations.

The original Funny Games is said to explore that question of whether violence in media reflects our culture or changes it. [Spoiler ahead.] And the original less-than-happy ending, according to all sources, is also staying, so it will be interesting to see how that plays with American audiences.