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Funny Games (1997) / Funny Games U.S. (2007)

funny games

Funny Games – Two psychotic young men take a mother, father, and son hostage in their vacation cabin and force them to play sadistic “games” with one another for their own amusement.

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I originally posted this review back in August, and only a couple of people read it. I feel the movie deserves a little more attention now a few more people stop by my site, so I present to you my original review with bigger images and all (I hope I got them all!) the rookie spelling mistakes fixed! Enjoy version 2.0!

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The original Funny Games is a 1997 Austrian psychological thriller directed and written by Michael Haneke. Ten years later Haneke made a shot-for-shot remake of its predecessor, albeit in English and set in the United States with different actors and it was titled Funny Games U.S.

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As both films are shot for shot almost identical, the plots for both are as follows with just the cast and language obviously being the difference. Funny Games begins with a wealthy German family – Georg (Ulrich Mühe), his wife Anna (Susanne Lothar – who sadly died last year), their son Schorschi (Stefan Clapczynski), and their dog Rolfi – arriving at their Austrian lake house. They spot their next-door neighbor Fred (Christoph Bantzer) accompanied by two young Viennese men, Peter (Frank Giering) and Paul (Arno Frisch), one of whom Fred introduces as the son of a friend while paying a visit. The two men begin imposing themselves on the family’s courtesy, and in the process destroy their phone and ruin all their eggs. Eventually a frustrated Anna demands that the men leave, asking Georg to eject them from the premises. Paul kills Rolfi, Peter breaks Georg’s leg with the latter’s golf club, and the two men take the family hostage, forcing them to participate in a number of sadistic games in order to stay alive.

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Funny Games U.S. is made up of more recognisable faces to anyone outside of Germany. George Farber is played by the great Tim Roth, with his wife Ann played by Naomi Watts. Their son Georgie is played by a young actor named Devon Gearhart. Finally the young tormenters in this version are played by Brady Corbet as Peter and Michael Pitt as Paul. For me the 2007 version was much better acted out and slightly more believable than the original (also in a shallow way the people were better to look at). I just felt more for Roth & Watts, they had an innocence and believability to their characters and I found it harder to watch things unravel for their family than in the original. At the same time, the Peter & Paul in the remake were far creepier, as both Corbet & Pitt carried off the menace and charm better than the young guys in the 1997 version. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the acting in the original, but the father didn’t really grab me and I felt he was the weak link, along with the fat tormentor who was really outshone by his partner who carried off his role excellently.

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They are strange movies and the director takes some very bold steps in his making of them. The films frequently blur the line between fiction and reality, especially highlighting the act of observation. The character Paul (only him, never Peter for some reason) breaks the fourth wall throughout the films and addresses the camera on numerous occasions. As he directs Anna to look for her dead dog, he turns, winks, and smirks at the camera. When he asks the family to bet on their survival, he turns to the camera and asks the audience whether they will bet as well. All they have to do is survive past 9pm the next day. In a move that I have never seen before, at one point Paul uses a remote control to rewind the film to change the outcome of a certain event. I was amazed the first time I saw this, and rather than feel cheated like I know some viewers did, I had to applaud the director for doing something so unique and controversial.

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Funny Games director Michael Haneke has actually stated that the films were not intended to be horror films. He says he wanted to make a message about violence in the media by making an incredibly violent, but otherwise pointless movie. He also felt that people shouldn’t enjoy his movies, and if they did they missed the point. Whilst there is some violence, the films actually feature very little graphic violence and almost all of the death and mutilation occurs off-screen. Even so, the scenes are very unsettling to watch given the subject matter, and at times the tension becomes almost unbearable.

Minor spoilers lay ahead…………….

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The films are not without their flaws. To me there seemed to be a really good chance to end it all very quickly, as at the beginning both families are introduced to one of their tormentors whilst the other is busy. It seemed a good time to try something. Even with the initial slap scene, could the father not have tried more? But then there would be no fun in that, and ultimately no film. Plus, as Paul continues to address us viewers and throw out red herrings, I got the feeling the films, whether fact or fiction or alternate reality, depending on your views after the discussion on the boat, the end result was never in question.

Another thing that is done differently in these movies is the ten minute or so continuous take, where there is really nothing going on and hardly any talking, but in the context of the event which has just happened it ties in and doesn’t feel out-of-place or get annoying. Another very ambitious move on behalf of the director, but again he isn’t making the film for people to enjoy, rather he wants us to sit up and take notice at the violent world we live in.

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The movies are almost without a soundtrack. At the beginning of the film the families play a classical music guessing game. As soon as the credits hit, the music abruptly changes to a loud, obnoxious and angry style of music. This sudden shift represents the chaos and insanity that is to come. We get this loud music again at the end of the films, but other than that, there’s no soundtrack.

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All in all, much to the directors disappointment, I really liked both versions of Funny Games. Whilst I felt Funny Games U.S. looked better and was acted out by a higher quality cast, the original still hit all the right notes and they were both truly terrifying films, with a relatively simple premise but different on so many levels. I doubt you will have seen many films as bleak and menacing, or as full of tension with some incredible characters and a dark, dark tone to it as Funny Games. With a superb story and plenty of red herrings and almost unbearable scenes, both versions of Funny Games demand to be seen and really show other home invasion movies such as The Strangers how to do this kind of terror. Not for the faint hearted, or those who frequently worry about people invading their house, but a very worthwhile and emotional watch whilst at the very least offering  something a little different.

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If I did half scores I would give the original 6.5 and the remake a 7, but I don’t so an equal 7 seems fair.

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73 Comments

  1. I actually have not seen the original version but I love the remake so much that I doubt I’d really get much enjoyment out of seeing the shot-for-shot original. Michael Pitt’s performance is haunting and truly creepy. I great flick but definitely not for everyone.

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    • I watched them both back to back (happy day that was lol) and whilst there maybe isn’t much enjoyment to be had seeking out the original if you’ve seen the newer one, I think its worthwhile to have seen them both. For me anyway, I just was fascinated by a European director who wanted to make a shot for shot remake of his own work, within 10 years of the original.

      Glad you liked it Ryan, and yeah, not for everyone! Cheers dude 🙂

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      • Yea from what I’ve heard is that the film never reached the audience that the director was hoping for which is why he re-shot an American version. Makes sense I suppose! Speaking of remakes, the guy who did the low budget foriegn flick Hidden in the Woods is remaking his same movie and it only came out last year. Now that’s crazy!

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        • Thanks for that info, I can see his reasoning and it stops anyone else messing up his vision. As for the other one you mention: that is mental!!! Cheers Ryan 🙂

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    • GaryLee828

       /  May 9, 2013

      Ryan, I watched the remake in the theater, and then a couple years later I watched the original, and I think the original is worth checking out.

      In the original, Haneke cast the same lead to play Paul that he casted from a previous film he did in 1992 called “Benny’s Video”. The actor who played the lead in both these films was excellent, and felt genuinely creepy. I thought he was better than Pitt – although Pitt was pretty good, too.

      But as a horror buff I think you should watch the original and “Benny’s Video” if you have not already and check out the actor; if they had made “Bates Motel” in the 90’s I think he’d been perfect to play young Norman. Of course, a lot of the credit for the kid’s brilliant performances is due to Haneke’s superb writing, and directing.

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  2. Great post, Tyson! 🙂

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  3. I’m actually the exact opposite. I saw the remake first, but I hated it. I was bored out of my mind, didn’t find the acting that great, and didn’t care for any of the characters or anything going on. But last year I decided to check out the original, and it is by far the superior. The actors pull everything off SO much better, especially our two villains. They not only pull of their characters better than in the American version (and are infinitely more terrifying), but they help pull off the message of the film more. I don’t think either of the guys in the remake are terrible actors, but the original guys just fit the roles so much better in my opinion. The remake just falls flat, and that’s even more obvious in the light of watching the original.

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    • Ah ok. Good to get a different perspective. I just didn’t like one of the villains in the original, not frightening at all to me, but his partner as I mentioned was excellent. At least you’ve seen both! For me, Roth and Watts were more watchable and I felt for them so much more. Still, all about opinions and thanks for sharing yours Nicholas, much appreciated buddy 🙂

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      • I’m way late to this party but I do agree with you I found the remake to be slightly better acted then the original. It’s good and if they never remade it I would be fine. I just found Roth and Watts to be better in this. I gave this movie to my parents as a gift and they loved it

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  4. I’ve not seen the original but like Ryan says, I doubt it can beat the remake considering it’s so good. Loved the movie and rated it very highly indeed (4.5 from me). It’s terrifying stuff with some great directorial flourishes from Haneke. Excellent post bro.

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    • As Nicholas has just mentioned above, he rated the original much higher. Strange, but great to have mixed reactions. That is indeed a high rating from you dude, I just couldn’t nudge it any higher. Haneke is certainly an interesting director. Thanks mate 🙂

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  5. Nice review mate. I’ve been recommended these by a couple of people and they sound pretty interesting. A mate of mine watched them back to back and said he couldn’t choose between them.

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    • Definitely recommend watching them, ideally back to back in order like I did! Not a pleasant watch by any means, but a worthwhile one all the same.

      Cheers Chris 🙂

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  6. davecrewe

     /  May 9, 2013

    I reviewed this about a month ago – one of the things I found quite interesting about the film is something that you identified as a flaw, actually. I thought it was interesting the way the family’s attempts to break out of their captor’s control were anemic and ineffective because, well, they were traumatized and frightened and not acting rationally. Every horror movie fan loves to pay out the inept protagonists (and it’s often justified) but I feel like if most people were in a situation like this – especially with such dominating personalities – they’d be unlikely to do anything substantial to get out of it.

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    • I hear what you’re saying there Dave. Of course, without being in that situation we can only imagine what we would do. So you’re right, I just felt there was a chance, and if you’re desperate and trying to save your family, you’d take it.

      Thanks for stopping by, I’ll have to come over and check out your thoughts now I’ve reposted this 🙂

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      • davecrewe

         /  May 9, 2013

        Would appreciate your thoughts! If you don’t want to go digging too far to find it, the review’s here: http://ccpopculture.wordpress.com/2013/04/12/funny-games-2007/

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        • Haha, just on it, and checking out your My Bloody Valentine post. I thought I was subscribed to you, but seem to have missed a few. My apologies. I’ll leave the link in, good to have other opinions 🙂

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        • davecrewe

           /  May 9, 2013

          No worries! I miss plenty of posts from blogs I subscribe too – as much as I’d like to read every post, sometimes you just run out of time! Thanks for the thoughts 🙂

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        • No worries, and all subscribed now. Hopefully wont miss any more! 🙂

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  7. Your review is very thorough and I like how you compare both films. I did not see the original, but I absolutely hated the new one. I just couldn’t stand watching it. Good cast, and good acting, but just not my type of movie. Nice review though.

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    • I just couldn’t do a separate review for each, would be basically identical, so glad you liked it as one comparison piece.

      Not surprised it invoked that reaction from you, after all, that’s what the director wanted. Maybe not worth you hunting down the original then!!

      Cheers buddy 🙂

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      • Yeah I wouldn’t want to watch the original. It is interesting to me that the director would make the same movie twice.

        By the way, I gotta ask, did you get the idea for Head in a Vice from Casino? Or what was your inspiration? It is pretty clever.

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        • An odd move from the director, but at least it stops Hollywood from ruining it I guess!

          And yes, spot on. If you are bored and want to read my ‘about me’ page, that explains it even more. Thanks and glad you like it! Took a while to come up with a name, but has to be something that means a lot to us 🙂

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        • Where is the like button : ) I will admit I don’t often read the about me pages. Casino was the first thing I thought of when I first saw your page. I knew it had to be, but I just thought I’d ask. I knew at that point you had good taste in movies.

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        • I only wrote my ‘about me’ page just in case anyone read it, but it gets a few looks now and then. It was the first movie that ever really took my attention, and I walked in on the head in vice scene…..so it had to be!! Under-rated movie Casino, but I love it, and glad you do 🙂

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        • Well now I’ve gotta look.

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        • Hope you like it, cheers 😉

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  8. I’ve only seen the re-make… and it’s a tricky one. I get that we’re not supposed to enjoy it but… I don’t know, I guess it did it’s job on me as it really repulsed me. But it didn’t really speak to me on a deeper level about violence in society or in film. I just found it unpleasant to watch!

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    • Repulsed eh!? Very unpleasant you’re right. I’ve always liked a darker style of movie so I like to see different things. This was certainly that! You arent alone in hating it though 🙂

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      • Ha, yeah, that’s kind of a strong word. Haneke would love it! I normally like dark stuff but this one just wasn’t for me.

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        • He will be happy you felt like that!! Not for a lot of people really, but getting a decent response in here, and a few people curious 🙂

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  9. Ryan

     /  May 9, 2013

    I’ve seen both versions of this, and I agree they’re about equal. The home invasion sub-genre of horror film has never been a favorite of mine, but to each their own. I thought Panic Room and Firewall were incredibly dull, and The Strangers just didn’t appeal to me at all. Funny Games was definitely different with its fourth-wall breaking, but I’m just not sure what the point of the film was? Were these two giving us exactly what we, as horror fans want, and making us feel bad for it? I just didn’t get it.

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    • I liked Panic Room to be honest, but The Strangers took some stick when I reviewed it. I’m not sure what we can take away from Funny Games. Not often a film is just dark for the sake of it, but this is. Odd indeed. Cheers Ryan 🙂

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  10. Nice review. I definitely have to see this as recently I’ve gotten into Haneke’s work. I saw the trailer for the remake online and it looks highly disturbing.

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    • I haven’t seen his other stuff, is that disturbing? I always meant to after this, just haven’t got round to it. Thanks mate, you should check this out for sure 🙂

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      • GaryLee828

         /  May 9, 2013

        Tyson, as I just wrote to Ryan, check out “Benny’s Video” that stars the lead who played Paul in the original Funny Games. It is quite dark; and then if you want to see more of Haneke’s work check out “Cache” that is a bit slow at parts, but is intriguing nonetheless and just leaves the viewer with a creepy feeling of always being watched and monitored.

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  11. Nice post! I do like this film, even though I probably shouldn’t – pure sadism from Haneke! I’ve seen both, and prefer the original. I think it’s just that little bit edgier.

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    • Thank you!! It’s good that you like it, shows you’re a little warped like me. Lol. Obviously I prefer the new one, just. I found that edgier, but its good we disagree, I’m glad you’ve seen them both 🙂

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  12. Popcorn Nights

     /  May 9, 2013

    Not much between the two for me either, although totally agree that the two brothers in the remake are way, way creepier. Almost a Clockwork Orange type thing going on with them in their white clothes. Disturbing, odd films that I really enjoyed. Nice review(s)!

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  13. Tyson, excellent post! I am a big fan of Michael Haeneke, and of the two films, I prefer the German version….simply because there is more resonance in that version, with it’s nods to Germany’s political past, and the theme of non-action…granted, in Funny Games- the threat is to the family, but it can and should be extrapolated as a political statement about Austria, as most of his films are political.

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    • I’m not very well versed on my German political history, aside from the obvious differences with Austria, so that was kind of over my head to be honest. I wouldn’t even have thought about that, so thanks for pointing it out.

      Much appreciate the comment Karl, cheers 🙂

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  14. I have a review of this written and ready. I just recently watched this and Haneke’s newer remake. Disturbing and unnerving for sure.

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  15. theipc

     /  May 9, 2013

    I always appreciate when people disagree with me and I would never argue how someone else sees a movie with different eyes and brain than mine. But, as you know, I FUCKING HATED this from the opening credits to the end.

    Here’s an excerpt from my mini review on my Most Unclean page: But I actually hated this movie from start to finish. I hated the intro music, I hated the opening credits, I hated the dialogue in the car, I hated the dialogue in the house, I hated the way the four main actors delivered their dialogue, I hated all of the characters, I hated their outfits, I hated the way they talked to the camera, I hated what they did to the dog, I hated the way the plot played out, I hated what they did to the kid, I hated what they did to the husband and wife, I HATED the “rewind” scene and I hated the ending. I don’t think I have ever disliked a movie so much.

    That being said – I’m glad you (and everyone else) liked it : )

    Cheers, Hustler.

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    • LOL – I know, you are so wrong, it’s good!! But I appreciate that you hate it with a passion. Not the last time we will disagree I imagine, but all good fun.

      Cheers Big Sexy 🙂

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    • GaryLee828

       /  May 9, 2013

      Eric, don’t come on this site and bother commenting if you’re not going to be honest and just quit watering down how you really feel!! 🙂

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  16. Sorry I had to stop reading this once I read the word ‘kills’. Nothing prudish, here’s the irony. Last night, I picked up my own, shrink wrapped, copy of the original and said to myself ‘I must watch this soon.’ I guess tonight’s the night. I should be reading this properly first and then coming back to you or reading it after I’ve watched the film. The thing is, I wanted to stop by and make my comments. It really pisses me off when original, really great films get remade. Even if the original creator is still involved. How about this? Instead of dumbing down your films for an English speaking audience, why not try and promote the fantastic quality of World Cinema? I think foreign/non-English films are totally underrated and they have so much to offer. Here’s an example, ‘The Vanishing’ which was an original French/Dutch(?) film got remade in the USA. Good cast list, alright film, not a patch on the original. Actually, clearly this is something that is important to me – maybe I should use it as inspiration for a blog post?! Thank you, Tyson! Sorry, I needed to stop ranting! You mention that the leading lady died last year, did you know that Frank Giering died in tragic circumstances in 2010. I’m sure he starred in another uber violent film that was pretty gruesome but fantastic work. Really glad you reposted this. 🙂

    Btw, I am working on my Desert Island Films – woooo! 🙂

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    • Quality comment!!! Rant away, anytime!! I agree with you and thanks for venting! 🙂

      No I dont recall that death? Ill have to look it up.

      Someone mentioned The Vanishing on here the other day too, I need to watch it again. Great, dark film.

      And that’s great about your list, can’t wait!!! Cheers 🙂

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      • Oh my god. This film wasn’t quite what I was expecting. I mean, there’s a sheer brilliance to it – I really liked the nods to the camera (which are easy to screw up) and the rewind moment.

        Wow, I IMDBed Suzanne – did you know that she was married to her on screen husband and that he died in 2007? That’s really sad. They’ve got kids too. (In fact, check out on his bio you’ll find out some interesting things about his former ex-wife, also deceased. It’s all a bit sinister.) I have to admit, I only discovered Frank’s death today when I was trying to figure out what film I recognised Paul from. I failed, btw. When I work it out, I will share that! 🙂

        Yeah, I think what’s most screwed about this film (other than the repetition throughout with their patterns) is how they mess with them psychologically. Playing nice, polite guys that just taunt them. Seriously messed up. So pleased you wrote this as it finally gave me the push I needed to watch this film. I hope you do rewatch ‘The Vanishing’. Telling you, cracking European films! 🙂

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        • It does sound a little sinister, when I originally posted this, the day before the woman I mentioned died……I just amended it to say last year, I didnt realise a few had passed. Creepy.

          Really pleased this gave you the push to watch it, makes it all worthwhile!! I will watch The Vanishing, both of them, and do a piece on them like I did for Funny Games. I’ll be sure to credit you for giving me the nudge! 🙂

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  17. The original has been on my list for years now. Not sure exactly why I still haven’t seen it. Even if the original director was involved and it was shot for shot, really no interest in the American remake – I hate when they do that so much. Subtitles aren’t that difficult, people. Oy.

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    • Some people hate subtitles. Lazy. I wanted to see both and obviously just preferred the remake. But I hope you see the original one day Misty 🙂

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  18. garryarmstrong

     /  May 9, 2013

    Hey, Tyson, I’m sure I’m in the minority here again as “the old guy” but gee whiz!! Did I read that the director said “I don’t think people should enjoy my movies”? WTF? I write to praise your review and expand my knowledge of these films. But I think I’ll find something else to watch on this dreary, rainy, late Spring day here in New England. Cheers!!

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    • Yeah, he feels people should walk away hating this movie. Strange move. Especially because its good!! Sure it won’t be hard to find a happier movie, this is a depressing watch.

      Always love you stopping by Garry, cheers 🙂

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  19. Great! Now I have to watch two movies????

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  20. I like Naomi Watts but neither one of these quite appeal to me Ty. I like how you compare both versions though, great post!

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  21. GaryLee828

     /  May 9, 2013

    Tyson, you didn’t like “The Strangers”? I thought it was very well directed, especially considering it was the director’s first feature.

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    • Nope…..check my review if you can be bothered in the A-Z mate, but to spare you the time I thought it was predictable and unrealistic. Not terrible, just not great. 🙂

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  22. If I had to re-drect my own movie shot for shot, I’d be telling people it wasn’t enjoyable, too.

    Personally, I love the concept of breaking (in this case, obliterating) the fourth wall. It happens infrequently enough across films that in the odd time it does occur, it’s a refreshing departure from the norm.

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  23. Excellent post, I’ve only see the remake and thought it was chilling because it could actually happen in real life.

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  24. Home invasions scare the crap out of me but I can’t stop watching those types of films! I saw the 1997 original and I thought it was boring. I haven’t had a chance to watch the remake, but it’s on my list. I really liked the side-by-side comparison photos that you added throughout your review. Good job!

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  25. Prior to this movie, I had this, I don’t know, romantic opinion of Michael Pitt (because of “The Dreamers,” which I love) but after seeing the 2007 version a couple of years ago, that opinion is shattered. He was really good in this.

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