In the late 90s, everyone was championing Scream’s revival of the horror genre, citing its self-aware script, and upending of the genre tropes. But the genuine evolutionary leap occurred a year later, in Austria, with this film. Besides resuscitating the home-invasion genre, Funny Games proves more self-reflexive and layered. All while packing the nihilistic punch Scream lacked.
Calling this a home invasion movie would be reductive, but as an example of the genre, it’s amazing. What begins as an awkward comedy of manners with a stranger asking to borrow some eggs transforms into unsettling terror via sudden, brutal violence. And it gets darker. Very dark. Much of this film proves off-putting but writer-director Michael Haneke goads us on, daring us to continue, knowing we can’t take our eyes off the train wreck despite the body count.
And that’s the meta dimension that makes Funny Games so revolutionary. Haneke has always challenged his audience, but with this film, he’s transitioned from presenting a disturbing vision to inviting us along in its creation. He’s not challenging us to stare into the abyss. He’s forcing us to examine why we enjoy it.