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Scream VI, Diabolique (1955), Hell House LLC, From Beyond, and Funny Games (both versions)
Weekly Horror Bulletin Newsletter 226
Hey guys, somehow, Saturday slipped right past me, and I didn’t notice until this morning (Monday) that I never hit “send” on this one. Sorry!
This week, we’ll watch the brand-new “Scream VI” from 2023, then the classic “Diabolique” from 1955, The found-footage film, “Hell House, LLC” and the Lovecraftian “From Beyond.” For our usual two bonus films, we have both versions of “Funny Games” (1997) and (2007).
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We’ve got two announcements this week pertaining to our books:
1. FREE! Horror Bulletin Monthly Issue 20 is now out. This, as always, has all our previous month’s reviews inside, but this month, we’re offering the ebook version (in PDF and ePub) absolutely free! Check out https://brianschell.com/collection/free-books for this one and more!
2. FREE! The Horror Guys Guide To The Halloween Films is available now, exclusively at our web store, https://brianschell.com/collection/free-books. The eBook version is completely free. Enjoy! Note that it’s also available as a paperback, but that one’s obviously not free. Also note, that there are a couple of other free books on the site as well!
Check out all our books!
The Horror Guys Guide to:
Here. We. Go!
Scream VI (2023)
• Directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett
• Written by James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick
• Stars Courteney Cox, Melissa Barrera, Jenna Ortega, Jasmin Savoy Brown
• Run Time: 2 Hours, 2 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
This was a step better than the more recent couple sequels, back to the quality of the first few. Some of the attacks are more public and take on more people at once, but it seemed like much was just what we’ve seen before. If you’re a fan of the Scream films, you’ll probably like this one too.
It’s Halloween. Laura waits at the bar, but her “Flirtr” date, Reggie, can’t find the place. They talk about horror movies; she’s a film professor teaching about 20th century slasher films. She talks him through finding the place, but he ends up in an alley being chased by a guy with a knife. In a panic, Laura walks into a dark alley, alone and Reggie’s voice changes into something more… familiar. She doesn’t live long after that.
He kills her and then he takes his mask and costume off. He’s Jason, and he stops to talk to Tara; they’ll be going to the same party later. He goes home and hangs his mask in the closet and washes the blood off his hands. He gets a call from his “partner” who also talks in Ghostface’s voice. Jason said he was nervous and had to practice on Laura. Jason starts to doubt that he’s talking to his friend— he’s not. Jason is soon dead. Credits roll.
Sam is talking to her psychiatrist, and she says she’s worried about Tara. After he presses her to talk about herself, she rattles that her father was Billy Loomis, the famous serial killer. Her boyfriend was also a serial killer. The internet claims she organized the whole thing and framed them all. The doctor gets more and more nervous as she admits killing the serial killer felt so good. She gets annoyed and goes home, where she learns from her roommate Quinn that Tara has gone to a frat party.
Tara meets Frankie at the party. Anika tries to get her away from him, but she’s very interested in Frankie. Anika enlists Chad to try and help, and there’s soon a fight— which Sam wins with a Taser. “Holy shit, it’s that psycho girl,” Someone says. Sam and Tara have a very expository argument about their motives for being there.
Later, Tara thanks Chad for helping her out, and the two almost kiss until Quinn interrupts. Sam and Danny are seeing each other secretly. Everyone watches TV, where the news talks about Greg and Jason, who were murdered by a masked killer. Sam freaks out and wants to leave town. Now.
Sam’s phone rings; it’s Gale Weathers, but she doesn’t answer. Quinn’s father is a policeman, and he calls to say Sam is not overreacting. Ghostface also calls Sam, and she warns him that she killed the last two people who played Ghostface. He attacks and kills a few people in a convenience store. The police arrive but find only Sam and Tara.
Detective Bailey says he found Sam’s driver’s license next to Jason’s corpse. Kirby Reed from the FBI arrives— she went to high school with Sam. The killer has been leaving Ghostface masks with the DNA of the previous killers on them. Gale Weathers shows up, and they’re mad because she wrote another book about them.
Tara’s psychiatrist gets a late-night knock at the door. He gets a knife in the eye before the killer takes Sam’s patient file.
Film student Mindy explains “Someone is out to make a sequel to the requel, but the rules have changed because we’re in a franchise now.” She explains more rules where legacy characters are brought back to be killed for cheap nostalgia. “It’s not looking too good for Gale and Kirby,” she warns. Even the main characters could go at any time, especially Sam and Tara. Ethan asks if he’s going to die a virgin. Mindy’s probably a bit paranoid, but she’s probably not wrong.
Detective Bailey and Kirby talk about the psychiatrist’s death. There have been nine Ghostfaces in the past, and they’re finding their masks in reverse order, newest to oldest. There are only four more, including Billy Loomis’s, the original. The news reporters believe that Sam is behind all the killings.
Sales of the Ghostface mask have gone through the roof in the past few days. Tara, Sam, Chad, and Mindy talk about everything as Ghostface kills Quinn in the next room. Danny, the guy from the apartment next door, makes a ladder-bridge between the buildings. Mindy gets across as well, but Anika is toast.
Detective Bailey leaves the scene since Quinn was his daughter. He’s not giving up the case though. Gale and Kirby show up, and they know where the killer is getting the old masks. They go to a shrine for the dead Ghostfaces and their victims. There are artifacts from all the previous cases and murders. Billy’s ghost whispers in Sam’s ear how exciting this all is.
The killer calls Gale. He explains that the legacy characters are expendable now. There’s a quick chase around the apartment, but Gale gets stabbed several times before Sam and Tara drive off the killer. She’s not dead, but it’s close.
They all make a plan to trap Ghostface, but Mindy gets left behind with Ethan. Since it’s Halloween, half the people on the subway are in Ghostface’s mask, including of course, the one who stabs Mindy. Ethan pulls her out of the train and yells for help. “Fuck this franchise,” she moans.
Kirby, Sam, Tara, and Chad go back to the Ghostface shrine/lair and lock themselves in. Detective Bailey calls Sam and says he checked on Kirby, who is unstable and no longer with the FBI.
Ghostface immediately attacks, and once again, they smack him in the head with something and then run away without finishing the job (for about the tenth time in this film alone).
Then, shocker of all shockers, a second Ghostface appears and they kill Chad together. Kirby comes in shooting. Bailey comes in, and he points his gun at Kirby. Oh. Wait. It’s two Ghostfaces and Bailey.
Ethan takes his mask off. So does Quinn. “I didn’t die. It was a good way to get off the suspect list.” Bailey has Sam’s father’s mask, and he wants her to wear it. They even started Internet rumors about Sam being the killer. Their brother died in Woodsboro— Richie. Bailey’s his father, and Quinn and Ethen were his siblings.
The tables get turned, and Ethan is stabbed multiple times. Kirby gets shot and stabbed. Quinn gets hit over the head with a brick. None of them slow down at all. There’s more fighting, but eventually, only Bailey is left.
Detective Bailey wakes up and gets a call from Ghostface. Ghostface jumps out and stabs him about a thousand times. It’s Sam wearing her father’s costume, mask, and knife.
Danny comes in with all the police. He reports that Chad, Mindy, and Gale are going to be OK. Sam’s still got her father’s mask and knife in her bag.
Post credit scene: Mindy explains that not every movie needs a post-credit scene.
There are a number of plot points you don’t want to think about, but that’s OK.
Unlike many of the previous installments, there’s really nothing innovative or original about this one. Yeah, this time there are three of them, but it’s not that big of a surprise.
Kevin was quite annoyed at these people with experience and knowledge about masked killers, yet would repeatedly knock them down then run away rather than continuing to pound on them until they were sure the killer was dead. Of course, the killer would hop up again to continue the pursuit.
Unlike the previous film, at least this one “felt” like a Scream movie. I liked it quite a lot more than that film as it didn’t mess with the formula quite so much.
• Directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot
• Written by Pierre Boileau, Thomas Narcejac, Henri-Georges Clouzot
• Stars Simone Signoret, Vera Clouzot, Paul Meurisse
• Run Time: 1 Hour, 57 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
This is an interesting snapshot of life in France in the 1950s. Horror Guy Kevin got kind of bored by the last third, but Horror Guy Brian was more forgiving.
We open at the DeLasalle Boarding School, and the food deliveryman drives in. The headmaster, Mr. Drain, heard screams coming from Nicole’s room. She’s one of the teachers and doesn’t care much for her boss. She tells her colleague Christine that Michel gave her a black eye last night at 3:00 a.m. Mr. Drain gossips with a colleague that he finds their friendship baffling, “The legal wife counseling the mistress.” We are told that Christina, “the mistress,” has a heart condition.
Michel comes into the room, and we see that he’s a bully to both of them. Christina complains to Nicole that divorce is a deadly sin, which is why they’re still married. Nicole has a plan, and they only have three days to make it happen. The fish at dinner is really sketchy, but he forces Christina to eat it.
Michel even bosses around Mr. Drain. Christina doesn’t like the way he runs her school; it’s her money and her school. Nicole mentions that she’s going away on vacation in the morning, Michel forces Christina, his unwilling wife, to have sex with him.
Apparently, everyone is going on vacation, the students and most of the staff pack up and leave. Late that night, the two women meet in the attic. Nicole has found a big wicker trunk and loaded it into their truck.
Mrs. Herboux is the nosy landlady where Nicole will be staying on vacation, and she watches the two women carry in the big trunk. Christina calls Michel and says she wants a divorce. Since the school was part of her dowry, she wants it all back. Michel says he’ll be there tomorrow to discuss things in person. Christina doesn’t seem too eager to go through with their plane, but she obviously thinks Nicole is right about the solution to their problem.
They put sedatives in the wine just before Michel arrives. Christina says they need to stop, “It’s too awful.” Nicole points out that after her phone call, it’s too late to turn back. “He’ll never know that I was the one who killed him,” Christina snarls.
Nicole goes downstairs to keep the Herbouxes distracted and busy, so they won’t see Michel coming in. Christina lets Michel in and they go to her room to discuss the situation. He had to sneak out of the school because chasing his wide was embarrassing; no one knows where he has gone.
Michael says Christina is too religious to start a divorce, but she convinces him that she could do it if she never remarries. He’s angry about the humiliation and scandal it would cause when she talks about his indiscretions. Plus, he’ll lose out on all her money and his place at the school.
Christina tries to get Michel to stop drinking the sedative, but when the conflict eventually devolves into him slapping her, she lets him guzzle the bottle. He soon passes out, as Nicole sneaks in the back door and fills up the bathtub.
The two women carry the unconscious Michel and drown him in the bathtub. Christina is terrified, so Nicole does most of the work. Christina has chest pains and must rest while Nicole puts a tablecloth over Michel and the tub.
Old man Herboux complains that the tub is too noisy and writes it down in his book of grievances. They end up tricking Herboux into helping them carry the much-heavier-now trunk out to their truck. Christina tells Nicole, “We are monsters.”
Mr. Drain wakes up when the women return to the school that night and need the gate opened. He was expecting Michel and the women say they didn’t know he wasn’t still there.
The women unload the body from the truck and dump it in the scuzzy old swimming pool. Christina just about has a heart attack from the effort but they make it work. Then they go inside and go to bed, returning from their vacation. Eventually, someone will find the body in the pool and assume he just fell in and drowned.
The other teachers immediately notice Michel is missing, so that cheers them up. Christina keeps watching the pool all through the school day, waiting for Michel to surface. He doesn’t. Christina wants to have the pool drained, but Nicole says that wouldn’t look normal and would cause suspicion.
So Nicole “accidentally” drops her keys in the pool, and one of the students has to dive in after them. The kid finds Michel’s lighter down there, but not his body (or the keys). Well, now it’s time to have the pool emptied!
Christina goes out to look at the empty pool and faints; there’s no body down there! The doctor says she’ll be fine but needs to avoid vexation. Nicole says the body has to be around here somewhere; who took Michel out of the pool?
The dry cleaner returns Michel’s suit—the suit he drowned in. How’d he get that? The woman at the cleaners describes Michel and points them to a hotel room for the man who brought them the suit. The cleaning man says Mr. DeLassalle doesn’t have any belongings, and he’s never there during the daytime.
Nicole asks, “He was really dead, wasn’t he?” Christina blames Nicole for planning the whole thing. They argue about which of them the courts would convict. They decide it’s probably best to wait and see what happens.
No, Christina decides to turn herself in, but Nichole finds in the newspaper that they found a naked body in the river—that’s gotta be him somehow. Christina goes to the morgue to identify the body—it’s not him. A policeman rides in the taxi with her and asks a few questions. He wants to know why she didn’t report her husband as missing.
Nicole watches Christina and Detective Fichet walking back to the school. His first guess is that Michel ran off with another woman. Both women talk to the detective, who just won’t shut up and leave. A little boy is working in the yard, and he says the principal, Michel, told him to do it. No one else has seen Michel.
Christina is terrified of being caught and gets sick, but Nicole insists it’s all coincidence. Nicole injects Christina with something to help her sleep. The doctor comes again and says that she overdid it and needs to relax for a while. The doctor tells his assistant later that she’s probably going to die soon.
Nicole finds Michel in the back of a school photo taken this morning, and she wants to leave town. Christina says her health won’t let her go along.
That night, as Christina sleeps, Detective Fichet comes into her room. He says he found Michel, but she says that’s impossible because she killed him! She tells him everything, including Nicole’s involvement. He says she needs a stronger sedative and leaves.
Later, she awakens again and goes out into the hallway. She hears footsteps in the dark. “Who’s there?” There are sounds coming from Michel’s office. Suddenly, the lights go out, and she runs back to her room. She gets back to her room and finds dead-Michel in her bathtub. As he sits up, she has a massive heart attack and dies.
Michael removes his dead-looking contact lenses and checks his dead wife’s pulse. He then calls Nicole in; she was in on the plot from the start. They talk about how they faked the whole thing. “Now, we’re rich!” he says.
Except then Detective Fichet comes out of the shadows and arrests them both for murder. He heard the whole thing!
I saw the 1996 remake when it came out, so I already knew the ending for this one, which took a lot away from the experience this time. There’s no lesbian subtext in this one, although at one point Christina tells Michel that she and Nicole share a bed; he laughs.
This window into 1950’s France is pretty cool. It’s a lot different from British films of the time. Kevin said the last third felt long and stretched out, but I thought it was pretty good on its own—as long as you don’t know what’s coming.
Short Film: Kickstart My Heart (2023)
• Directed by Kelsey Bollig
• Written by Kelsey Bollig
• Stars Emma Pasarow, Cooper Alexander, Sadie Eve Scott
• Run Time: 11:49
Lily gets hit by a car. She wakes up later and has no idea where she is— her family has been waiting a long time. Her little brother Richie comes into the room, but he’s been dead for a while. He says that she’s going to have to really fight. She pulls away the covers and there’s a big bite on her leg. Then the zombie attacks!
This one’s got lots of action, which is pretty unusual for a short. The music really adds to the tension, and the makeup effects are really good as well.
It’s not absolutely clear what’s going on as it develops, but it mostly makes sense by the end. I liked it!
Hell House LLC: Director’s Cut (2015)
• Directed by Stephen Cognetti
• Written by Stephen Cognetti
• Stars Gore Abrams, Alice Bahlke, Danny Bellini
• Run Time: 2 Hours, 9 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
This was quite a good found-footage film. We sort of learn at the beginning what happens at the end, and things fill in as we go back and watch things unfold. The cast seemed very natural, and the authentic setting was great.
We are told: “What you are about to see is a documentary on the mysterious events surrounding the 2009 Halloween haunted house tragedy.”
The Abaddon Hotel was one of those haunted house attractions, but a bunch of people died there. We watch a video taken by one of the attendees on opening night. It’s a pretty standard haunted house, with evil clowns, scary mannequins, spiders, and lots of screaming sound effects. Suddenly, there’s a bunch of people in the basement screaming to go back out the way they came; there’s a stampede and loud noises followed by lots more screaming, for real this time. By the time some people get out, the ambulances and police are already arriving. Later, they wheel out nine bodies. The 911 call is played for us, but that doesn’t say very much.
The police clam up about what actually happened, and no one would say anything at all. No answers were forthcoming, so a photographer broke in later and investigated further.
Sara Havel was a member of the group that did the haunted house. She says the city keeping everything quiet was the right thing to do. She hands over a big bag of videotapes from the security cameras that she never gave to the police.
We watch what’s on her tapes: Sara, Paul, Alex, Tony, and Mac arrive at the abandoned Abaddon hotel, where they plan to open the new haunted house before Halloween. The place still has most of the original furnishings, but it’s pretty beat-up and filthy. They find a bunch of Bibles in the basement. Once they got the electricity restored, the group started spending the night there.
We see multiple scenes of the guys setting up haunted house props, but most of them also have a dark figure moving around in the background.
Joey, Melissa, and Sam, three actors, arrive to play clowns and such. We cut back to the photographer that says Joey made it out alive but was found dead nine days after the incident. Someone else was found with a self-inflicted throat cut. Melissa lives in the area, and she knows stories about the old hotel that say it’s really haunted.
Experts say it all began with Andrew Tully and the missing guests in 1989. He built the hotel because of the name of the town. “Abaddon” is the name of the demon who guards the gate to Hell. Some guests went mysteriously missing, so Andrew hanged himself in the dining room.
Paul gets scared by a clown dummy that shouldn’t have someone in it but it moves anyway. When he shows the others the footage, they think it’s a trick. Later, he’s scared by having one too many creatures in the basement. Sara starts sleepwalking, and some of the guys are ready to pack it in and quit, but Alex, the leader, is more gung-ho than ever.
Paul sees something in his room and vanishes afterward. They find him in the basement in a trance, but they blame him for messing with them. He doesn’t speak again after the incident, and it looks like he may have had a mental breakdown. Tony wants to quit, but Mac persuades him to stay.
Diane, the interviewer, asks Sara if Alex was fit to run the show, and Sara’s evasive about it.
It’s opening night, and there’s a huge line of people waiting to get in. They eventually open and start letting people in. Sara thinks she sees Paul wandering around. The cameras in the basement cut out, so no one knows what’s going on down there.
We finally get to see what happened in the basement: a portal to Hell opens up. Up in the attic, Alex has hanged himself, and there are cultists up there with him.
Back in the present, Diane and the cameraman decide to break into the Abaddon hotel and see what’s still in there. They leave, figuring it’ll take about an hour.
Meanwhile, Mitchell continues going through Sara’s old footage. It contains Paul beating Sara to death, so who was it that they just interviewed? Paul then cuts his own throat and dies on camera.
Diane and the cameraman break in and start taking video of the insides of the hotel, but the cameraman refuses to go into the basement. They go upstairs and find Sara in the bedroom with cultists. Both Diane and the cameraman vanish.
It’s basically a documentary surrounding found footage bits. There are many small details and short scenes that I didn’t go into in the synopsis above—there’s a lot going on here, with a great deal of weirdness. It was filmed on the site of a real haunted house attraction built into a real abandoned hotel, which makes it a really good setting.
The released version of the film was 1 hour and 33 minutes, so the director’s cut added more than half an hour of extra stuff. Most of the extras are just slightly stretched-out versions of scenes we already saw along with cast auditions.
From Beyond (1986)
• Directed by Stuart Gordon
• Written by Brian Yuzna, Dennis Paoli, H.P. Lovecraft
• Stars Jeffrey Combs, Barbara Crampton, Ted Sorel
• Run Time: 1 Hour, 25 minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
This was really excellent, with practical effects that have held up well. It’s from a very short H.P. Lovecraft story, but they manage to flesh it out into an entertaining full-length movie.
Crawford Tillinghast works on his computer at the high-tech lab. The big glowing ball in the center lights up, and the huge tuning forks do their thing. He sees some kind of translucent eel-like thing swimming around the forks, but then it jumps down and bites him. He cuts the power and it vanishes. Where did it come from? From Beyond!
He runs downstairs and tells his partner Dr. Pretorius that the machine worked. Pretorius turns it on and acts strangely. “Can’t you feel it? In the mind? In the mind! I want to see more than any man has ever seen! Something’s coming!”
Meanwhile, a neighbor lady calls the police about the noise and her little dog runs straight to the big house. She follows the dog up the stairs toward Tillinghast’s lab. Tillinghast runs outside and is grabbed by the police, but Pretorius is dead. Credits roll.
Dr. Katherine McMichaels and the detective come to see Dr. Bloch about Crawford Tillinghast’s condition. They want to see if he’s competent to stand trial for Pretorius’s murder. Crawford’s a physicist at Miskatonic University. They were trying to stimulate the pineal gland to open awareness of… things. He explains that the theory worked, but then they saw creatures from beyond. He says something from the other side bit off Pretorius’s head like a gingerbread man.
Katherine wants to do a CAT scan on Crawford to see what’s wrong with him. The pineal gland is oversized; Bloch thinks it’s a tumor, but Katherine thinks it is growing naturally. That would support that Crawford’s experiments worked. She wants to recreate the experiment with Crawford’s help. The detective just wants answers, so he gives her the go-ahead.
They meet Sergeant Buford Brownlee, who will “look after” Crawford. The three head back to the Pretorious compound. They find Pretorius’s sex dungeon, where he made amateur porn. They also find the resonator, but it’s not beaten up too badly. Crawford repairs the machine surprisingly easily.
He warns them not to move once the field is turned on, because “they” might see you. He switches it on, and it goes like before. Bubba sees the creatures first, and one of them bites him. Suddenly, they hear Pretorius’s voice calling to them. He says he didn’t die, he just passed beyond. He then peels his face off, and it’s not pretty. He jumps at them, and Crawford turns the machine off, making the things vanish.
Katherine wonders if the expanded pineal is related to schizophrenia somehow. She wants to experiment more with the machine, but Bubba and Crawford aren’t into that. That night, she sneaks in and turns the machine on herself. Crawford runs up and demands that she turn it off, but she kisses him instead. The machine makes her horny for some reason.
Pretorius appears, and he’s a slimy, half-melted, perverted mutant now. Crawford runs to the basement to kill the power down there, but there’s another monster in the basement. These monsters all seem to want to eat someone’s head. Bubba pulls the plug and both Katherine and Crawford are released. She’s fine, but he’s lost all his hair.
Katherine thinks about things and comes to the conclusion that she needs to run the experiment alone next time. Bubba says she’s acting like a junkie. She goes upstairs to the bondage dungeon and admires the equipment. Before long, she’s wearing a full BDSM suit and admiring herself in the mirror.
Bubba walks in. “I told you to get dressed.” “I did,” she answers. Suddenly, magic happens and the wires in the basement reconnect to the power and the machine upstairs activates. Crawford wakes up; he can hear that it’s on. Bubba runs upstairs to turn it off, but the machine shocks him. Katherine and Crawford try, and it shoots bugs all over them. The bugs eventually eat Bubba.
Then they spot Pretorius, who came through somehow. He’s barely human and has many tentacles. He tells Crawford that he’s changing and evolving and that he should let it happen too. Crawford’s head splits open, and a third eye pops out. Katherine sprays the machine with a fire extinguisher, but that doesn’t help for long.
She takes Crawford to the hospital, where Dr. Bloch tries to remove the worm in his forehead. Dr. Bloch thinks Katherine has lost her mind, and that’s what she tells the detective. Bloch orders electro-shock therapy.
Crawford wakes up and starts wandering around. Dr. Bloch catches him in the pathology room eating brains. He attacks her and eats her brain.
Katherine also breaks loose before they can zap her and she heads back to Pretorius’s place again. This time she takes a great big time bomb (where did she get that in the middle of the night?). As she comes downstairs, Crawford grabs her and chains her up in the bondage room. She bites his pineal gland off.
The machine switches on and Pretorius returns. He and Crawford fight while Katherine enlists the aid of the little eel-things to bite through her bonds. She runs, but Pretorius has tentacles everywhere. Crawford starts to rip his way out of Pretorius as time runs out. Katherine jumps out the window just as the bomb goes off.
The old neighbor lady comes over to help and finds that Katherine has completely lost her mind.
Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton previously worked with director Stuart Gordon on “Reanimator” (1985). The main lab set is really interesting and pretty cool. The resonator prop especially looks believable.
It’s really, really good.
Funny Games (1997)
• Directed by Michael Haneke
• Written by Michael Haneke
• Stars Susanne Lothar, Ulrich Muhe, Arno Frisch, Frank Giering
• Run Time: 1 Hour, 48 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
It’s a brutal film that’s all around well made. One of those movies where there’s nothing supernatural going on, it’s only people doing bad things to each other. Which is still plenty horrifying.
We watch as Anna and Georg drive through the woods to the lake with their boat in tow. The soft music changes to something… less calm as the credits roll.
They go into a huge gated home and begin to unpack. Fred comes over and introduces Paul, the son of a friend. They’re here to help launch the boat. Georg’s son Georgie thinks Uncle Fred is acting strangely.
A young man named Peter comes to the door from next door and wants to borrow some eggs. He says he came through a hole in their fence. He’s clumsy and accidentally knocks her phone into the dish water; it’s dead. She gives him the eggs, and he leaves.
No, he doesn’t. He lets Paul inside, who admires Georg’s golf clubs. Rolfiu, the dog, just won’t stop barking– until he does. Paul calls Peter, “Tom,” which confuses Anna, who asks them both to leave. Georg shows up, having no idea what’s going on, and she won’t clarify in front of the two boys.
It doesn’t take long to get to the point where the boys whack Georg with a golf club. Georg wants to call the police, but the phone has been destroyed. They play “hot and cold” as Anna looks for their murdered dog.
Robert and Gerda, two neighbors, sail up to the dock to talk to Anna. She’s friendly but really can’t say anything because Paul is there with her.
When they get back inside, the boys get violent, punching Anna and standing on Georg’s broken leg. Paul tells the story of Peter’s background, and it sounds like Peter’s pretty messed up mentally and maybe a drug addict as well. Or maybe he’s just making it all up.
It’s 9 o’clock, and Paul bets them that all three of them will be kaput within twelve hours. Paul turns and asks us, the audience, what we think. Will they survive?
Paul puts a pillowcase over Georgie’s head so that he can’t see. Now that he can’t see, they want Anna to strip for them. They torture Georgie until she complies. Then they have her dress again before torturing big Georg some more.
There is much screaming, and little Georg tries to sneak out the upstairs window. He runs next door to Fred and Eva’s house, but he sees that Paul is coming after him. Naturally, Fred and Eva are dead, so Paul catches and takes Georgie home. Georgie does find Fred’s rifle, which Paul takes home as well.
Paul goes into the kitchen to make a sandwich. We hear a gunshot and much screaming in the next room. We cut back to see little Georgie’s blood and brains smeared all over the TV screen. And the wall. And the curtains.
It gets very quiet for a long while, and Anna thinks the boys have gone. Both parents are traumatized, to put it mildly. Anna gets untied and tries to help Georg out of the house, but he’s got a broken leg and a broken arm by this point. He tells her to climb out the window and run for help; he’ll never make it.
Anna finds the phone is lit up again, but she doesn’t know the number for the police. It still doesn’t actually dial, so she tries using a hair dryer on it. It still doesn’t work, so she makes a run for it.
Anna cuts a hole in the fence and runs down the road as Georg keeps trying to fix the phone.
Paul comes back in, along with Peter and Anna, whom they have recaptured. They want to play more “games” with them. Paul asks us if they’ve had enough yet. They make Anna decide whether Georg will die from the knife or the gun.
Paul makes Anna get on her knees and prays, but she grabs the gun and kills Peter. Paul grabs the remote control and rewinds the film back to the prayer part before that happened. Then he kills Georg.
When the sun comes up, Peter, Paul, and Anna go out to the boat and take off. They push Anna overboard, but she’s all tied up and drowns.
They stop off at Robert and Gerda’s house and ask if they can borrow some eggs. Paul gives us a knowing look.
The moral of the story seems to be “always have a second phone.”
It’s well-filmed, well-acted, well-paced, and crazy brutal, even though we don’t actually see that much violence. I don’t know if this was the first major “torture porn” film, but it’s undoubtedly one of the better ones.
Funny Games (2007)
• Directed by Michael Haneke
• Written by Michael Haneke
• Stars Naomi Watts, Tim Roth, Michael Pitt
• Run Time: 1 Hour, 51 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
This is a shot-for-shot remake of the 1997 version, only this time in English with well-known star power. It’s the same script, by the same director. Because it was in more modern times and American, it didn’t feel like it worked quite as well.
Ann, George, and Georgie drive to their lake house with their boat. It immediately appears to be shot-for-shot from the 1997 German version, with even the same music for the credits.
We watch them drive through a heavy gate. George and Georgie put up their boat, while neighbor Fred and a friend, Paul, stop over to help.
A young man comes to the door. He says that the woman next door needs to borrow some eggs. The eggs get broken, and he asks for more. He’s clumsy and drops her phone in the sink, ruining it.
He leaves, but only briefly. Lucky the dog scares Peter back inside, and he brings Paul with him this time. And… this is when I realized this was 100% shot-for-shot, so there’s no point in a further synopsis. Ditto, only in English.
The house has the same layout, the boat looks identical, and even the blocking and lighting effects look the same. It’s obvious that they simply wanted an updated American version of the German film, and that’s what they got.
George’s attitude, in the beginning, doesn’t seem realistic for an American. In Europe, people are polite to the brink of death, but I suspect an American would be a lot more defensive early on. The same can be said for Paul and Peter; their strange politeness and civility didn’t seem all that out of place with German kids, but here it just didn’t seem even remotely plausible.
The European-ness of the original made it believable. I didn’t buy it in this one.
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