About Me

Kyle Smith (Twitter: @rkylesmith) is critic-at-large for National Review, theater critic for The New Criterion and the author of the novels Love Monkey and A Christmas Caroline. Type a title in the box above to locate a review.

Buy Love Monkey for $4! "Hilarious"--Maslin, NY Times. "Exceedingly readable and wickedly funny romantic comedy"--S.F. Chronicle. "Loud and brash, a helluva lot of fun"--Entertainment Weekly. "Engaging romp, laugh-out-loud funny"-CNN. "Shrewd, self-deprecating, oh-so-witty. Smith's ruthless humor knows no bounds"--NPR

Buy A Christmas Caroline for $10! "for those who prefer their sentimentality seasoned with a dash of cynical wit. A quick, enjoyable read...straight out of Devil Wears Prada"--The Wall Street Journal

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    There’s Disturbing, There’s Scary, There’s Terrifying. And Then There’s This Movie

    By Kyle | March 4, 2008


    The psychological thriller “Funny Games,” opening March 14, rivals and probably tops the Ellen Page internet-predator film “Hard Candy” in disgusting, vile, vicious, incandescently brutal wickedness. So why did I love this evil film, one I would strongly disrecommend to almost everyone I know?

    It has its roots in European drama, particularly (with its breaking of the fourth wall) Pirandello and definitely Pinter. The overwhelming, sickening terror of the movie–I’m serious, don’t see it if you have a weak stomach–is so pure and effective that you have to give it credit as one of the great horror movies. But it’s not just that. It’s also the blackest of satires. Satire of what, though? It comments on the conventions of horror movies, the unwritten rules. (Surely a child could not be hurt? Surely the climactic event can’t take place in the corner of the frame, barely visible, almost silent?) It’s a gleefully anarchic death-metal attack, but only by implication, on the consumption habits of the bourgeoisie, with our spacious summer homes and exquisite kitchens, while never being so crass as to deliver up any speeches on the hollow core of material things. I’m not a self-hating bourgeois, but when the arrow hits the target, I say so.

    Like heavy metal, though, the film is interestingly hazy on ideology, nihilist but also something else. Its most effective satire is, I think, on upper-class language itself, on the denatured term “inappropriate” and the strictures of politeness; that’s where the Harold Pinter influence is most evident. You could also read it as a veiled attack on the upper class’s distaste for guns. There are times when one loaded gun could be worth all of your noble ideals and then some.

    Writer-director Michael Haneke (who made the exact same film once before, under the same title, in 1997, when he was working in Europe) makes these points in ways that are way beyond extreme, though. Don’t see the film if you have a shred of humanity. I mainly recommend it to….film critics.

    Topics: Movies, Philosophy, Theater | 8 Comments »

    8 Responses to “There’s Disturbing, There’s Scary, There’s Terrifying. And Then There’s This Movie”

    1. steve Says:
      March 4th, 2008 at 3:17 pm

      sounds wild

      does is have a score?

      haneke pulled off “caché” without a score, which was pretty amazing

      and i thought “the piano teacher” was a wonderfully disturbing mess

      looking forward to this

    2. Jack Says:
      March 5th, 2008 at 1:28 am

      Kyle, just saw the preview, I have to agree it’s probably one of the sickest things I’ve ever seen.

      The most disturbing aspect is that seemingly innocent surroundings and scenes are mixed with pure evil. Well-spoken, well-dressed young boys commit pure evil with the same passiveness as if they’re playing Lego. It really is sick.

      I have to ask you though when you see movies like this, do you feel that you lose a little bit of your humanity or are you able to just forget about it quickly.

    3. John Says:
      March 6th, 2008 at 12:36 am

      Hard Candy was hard to watch at one point, but it was different.

    4. John Says:
      March 6th, 2008 at 12:39 am

      I just saw the trailer to Funny Games, oh come on, someone who looks like a reject from N Sync threating me? I’d throw him through the front window. Currently watching Death Wish V on AMC.

    5. Norm S. Says:
      March 6th, 2008 at 3:32 pm

      Great summary Kyle. Haneke’s an interesting filmmaker, and his movies have a real European sensibility, as you mention. I highly recommend Cache. Creepy stuff.

      Meet In the Lobby

    6. Ford Says:
      March 7th, 2008 at 11:16 am

      Johm, normally I have the same reaction to these kinds of situations. I wish people would find a way to fight back when school shooters or people perpetrating random acts of violence start their rampages, but you need to see Haneke’s films before you have a gut reaction like that. In his film 71 Fragments of a Chronology of Chance he shows how these random violent attacks never happen the way we expect and are virtually impossible to prevent. If you like Bronson you may not like it, but 71 Fragments really challenges our notions of what evil actually looks like, and so, even though it is very…very slow at times, it really is worth it.

    7. Bill Says:
      March 13th, 2008 at 1:31 pm

      If you lose pieces of your humanity after seeing a film, you should probably reevaluate your ability to discern between fiction and reality. Do not confuse depiction with endorsement.

    8. Review: “Flash Point,” “Never Back Down” | Says:
      March 14th, 2008 at 11:00 am

      […] video: “Flash Point” and “Never Back Down.” I’ve previously written a few thoughts on the vile, sickening, awful and brilliant “Funny […]