Killing Joke

The Austrian film Funny Games homes in on the meaning--and meaninglessness--of horror

So might this critic dare to recommend such an unconscionable nightmare? Allow me to equivocate. "Provocative" like a poke in the eye with a sharp stick, Haneke's film has the similar potential to leave a scar. (Does anyone really need more encouragement to feel afraid of the world?) At the opposite extreme, the thought that anyone might actually enjoy watching it is nearly as nauseating as the film itself--and yet, as a consummate example of what one might call a "Fuck You" Movie, it's certainly not without interest.

For me, Haneke's atrocity exhibition can't match the complicated critique of class-based bloodlust in Wes Craven's 25-year-old Last House on the Left, although I can admit, begrudgingly, that Funny Games probably represents a significant development in the evolution of horror cinema, a movie that cultural completists will want to grapple with, and perhaps abuse in return. That last point might even be crucial, because otherwise, at the end of Funny Games, Haneke the bully would retain his title as a heavyweight auteur--while his opponent, the viewer, would have only his wounds.

 

Funny Games screens at Oak Street Cinema on Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 and 9:30 p.m.; (612) 331-3134.

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