Michael Haneke has brought his maniacal art horror to the United States, remaking his 1997 film Funny Games for American audiences. What he has given us, however, is not your average Hollywood remake – snipped and streamlined for the more delicate stateside viewer, much as Ron Howard’s imminent remake of Haneke’s 2003 Caché is likely to be. No, this is what they call a shot-for-shot remake – a genre that, to my knowledge, only includes one other film, Gus Van Sant’s Psycho.
Critics have often compared Haneke to Hitchcock, or at least cited him as a reference point. This does seem an apt comparison, especially for Funny Games. The two filmmakers share a common instinct: to deconstruct and parody the family, often by putting a murderer in their midst (usually a stand-in for the filmmaker), and softly – or not so softly – suggesting a question: Who is more morally repulsive – the transgressive murderer or the repressive family members?