Tag Archives: torture porn

Seeing Double: Funny Games

By Ashley

During my horror movie binge, I watched both Michael Haneke’s Funny Games (1997, 2008) within a day of each other. I found both to be pretty good, if somewhat shallow. I feel like there are other movies that say the same things about brutality and violence in cinema and the audience’s participation in that violence in much more interesting, thought-provoking ways (hello, Martyrs) but I definitely appreciate Funny Games for what it is and find Haneke’s choice to make a meticulous, shot-by-shot American remake fascinating.

Since I watched them so close together I was able to point out most inconsistencies in dialogue, setting, and blocking between the two movies. I noticed some really interesting things, most of them really small, like changes in certain words (using “tubby” as opposed to “fatty”) or the different color palettes (FG ’97 has a tannish color scheme while ’08 FG’s is blue). But there is one major difference that is so jarring and obvious that I’m still frustrated and confused about it.

There’s a point in the Funny Games narrative where Paul and Peter force wife and mother Anna/Ann to strip. While she is stripping the camera stays on a close-up of her face; all we see during her disrobe is an uncomfortable, tear-stained face. The shot is all about depriving the audience of the pleasure of seeing her body. It’s about calling out the audience for taking any kind of pleasure in the sexualization of this woman’s torment. The next time we see her body in the original, she is clothed again. In the remake, however, it’s a totally different story.

Naomi Watts spends almost the entire rest of the movie in her bra and panties; Susanne Lothar in the original remains clothed save for one brief moment when she changes into jeans and a sweater. I just could not get over this. The whole point of the stripping scene is to deprive the viewer of the pleasure of seeing the female body, but in the ’08 version we get to see Watts writhing around half-naked anyway. I don’t understand why Haneke would undermine the subtext of the scene so completely. It could be that—since it’s an American remake—it’s an attempt to appeal to American sensibilities. But literally nothing else in this movie does that. This is a movie that, while in English and taking place in America, could not feel farther from an American movie.

So, I’m still pondering: What is Haneke trying to do with this particular change, the only major change in the remake? What say you, readers?

2 Comments

Filed under Cinema

Saw’d Off

By Andreas

I’m fascinated by the Saw series. I don’t like the movies, but they fascinate me. The first film was a modest, resourceful mega-hit—bleak but innovative. It could get repetitive and nauseating, but it made the most of its one-room premise and the presence of Cary Elwes. The sequels, on the other hand… ohh, the sequels. Whereas Saw I was mildly repugnant, the next three films (all directed by my bête noire Darren Lynn Bousman) exaggerated its worst habits. They’re little more than heaps of convoluted plotting and bad acting, interrupted only by gratuitously gory set-pieces.

And yet. And yet. I can’t stop watching them. I’ve given over about 6 1/2 hours of my life in order to watch the first four entries in the series. I could’ve watched most of Sátántangó in that time, but no, I watched half of the Saw series. The question, then: why? Why am I fascinated by these cheap, unimaginative, formulaic movies? I’ll explain it through a few of the series’ defining traits… (and I know saying they “fascinate” me sounds like a cop-out, that I don’t want to admit I like them, but honestly: they suck, and they’re mean-spirited.)

1) The continuing storyline. The Saw movies are anally detail-oriented. They don’t just have a single recurring villain; they have a whole host of dull, one-dimensional recurring characters. If you don’t remember Detective Eric Matthews from Saw II, you’re going to be very confused by the time Saw IV rolls around. The movies also obsess over the vagaries of their shared chronology, as if that obsession self-evidently signifies a well-crafted narrative.

2) The rapidly shifting tone. Think about the Saw series: you probably associate it with a stark warehouse setting, a computerized voice, and an array of gruesome, disemboweling traps. But that’s only half the story. The rest of the time, it’s a humorless cross between a Lifetime melodrama and Law & Order: SVU. Between scenes of over-the-top violence, the characters flash back to sentimental vignettes about their children, spouses, jobs, etc. It’s especially egregious (and tedious) in Saw III‘s treacly “dead son” subplot.

3) Their constant moralizing. All slasher movies, on some level, empathize with their killers. The Saw movies treat theirs as a mascot and, what’s more, as a font of perverse but profound life lessons. They evangelize his “Cherish Your Life” gospel in a pseudo-tentative way—well, they seem to say, his methods may be violent, but don’t Jigsaw’s misanthropic beliefs make a crazy kind of sense? But they don’t. The Saw series wastes whole installments (like all of Saw III) on inconsistent, convoluted lessons that don’t get learned.

Granted, these are all reasons that the Saw movies are bad, often to the point of being unwatchable. But these attributes also make them quaint, even cute. Look at how Saw IV‘s screenwriters take such delight in their (totally pointless) narrative trick: aha, it was all taking place concurrently with Saw III! Or how excited they are to have come up with such a morally ambiguous villain: who knows, maybe Jigsaw really is teaching these people!

I know I sound incredibly condescending, but how else can you talk about filmmakers who take so much pride in accomplishing so little? And yet, the films still fascinate me. Maybe it’s because of how compromised they are. They try to apologize for their fundamentally non-narrative atrocities, for their raw gratification (like a blend of Fear Factor and grand guignol), by diluting it with an onslaught of plot twists, soppy sentiment, and nonsensical morals.

Just look at the beginnings of Saw III and IV: they each begin with a few self-contained, contextless set-pieces before reluctantly getting into any kind of full-blown plot. You can tell that they want to showcase unfortunate men and women being blown apart, but alas, they have to frame it within Jigsaw’s ongoing saga. I feel for you, Saw movies. Underneath your half-assed philosophy and your TV drama clichés, you’re just an old-fashioned house of horrors yearning to breathe free.

You may be godawful movies, but I’ll be damned if I won’t end up watching Saws V, VI, and VII someday.

Leave a comment

Filed under Cinema

Link Dump: #11

Between the post-Halloween blues and the imminent end of classes, I’ve been feeling a lot like our old pal Stimpy lately. If all goes well, I should return to blogging in the near future. In the meantime, I’ve assembled a pretty half-assed list of recommended readings and assorted linkage. Maybe this can help us all survive the deadening onslaught of early November.

  • Jenni Miller of Cinematical writes about whether we should drop the term “torture porn.”
  • This is very, very awesome. It’s a post entitled “My son is gay” from Nerdy Apple Bottom that’s been traveling all over the Internet. You should read it, if you haven’t already!
  • OK, it’s confirmed: George Takei is the most awesome surviving member of the original Star Trek cast. Watch him tell that virulently homophobic school board member, “You are a douchebag.” (To be fair, though, Leonard Nimoy is also awesome.)
  • Through the magic of Tumblr, we have “4 Reasons Hermaphrodite Is A Derogatory Word.” Seriously, everyone: it’s intersexed.
  • Can you believe Alain Delon is 75 years old? Well, he’ll always be that fresh-faced Tom Ripley or Jef Costello to me.
  • References to The Tempest plus a review of He Ran All the Way starring John Garfield? Count me in, Acidemic!
  • Here’s a bitingly clever but depressing comic about sexism on the Internet, from Gabby’s Playhouse.
  • I love Edgar G. Ulmer, so of course I love learning about his later obscure movies like The Cavern (1965). MUBI fills us in.
  • Oregon Trail + zombies = Organ Trail, aka “YES.”
  • Here’s an article about Twitter’s “#ihadanabortion” hashtag.

We haven’t had much activity recently in the realm of weird search terms; all I could turn up for the past week was the nastily anti-Semitic “jews are animals,” the icky and not really answerable “do grown ups materbate to barbie dolls,” and finally the delightfully baffling “crishmas pussie.” I want to imagine that “crishmas pussie” is an annual tradition in some distant, insular community. Merry Crishmas Pussie, everyone!

Leave a comment

Filed under Cinema, Meta