Year Released: 1997
Writer/ Director: Michael Haneke
Country/ Language Spoken: Austria / German, French, Italian
IMDb Summary: Two violent 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.
In terms of horror and the many subgenres it has cast in its ever growing web, home invasion horror always seems to be one of the front runners in the discussion. The thought of having your home entered by strangers for any reason is going to be deeply unsettling and unnerving, but to find out those people want to hurt you and your family for seemingly no reason at all? That is where the true deep horror comes into play.
It was only in the late 90's when Writer/Director Michael Haneke was able to pen one of the most brutal and bleak home invasion stories to be put to screen. Eventually he would create an American shot for shot remake of his own film just over ten years later, but to me the original still holds the candle in its own right of being the most brutal, agonizing, and down right sinister. Brandishing two of the most unhinged sociopaths in the new era of cinema and the late 20th century, we see these young men capture a small family, father Georg, mother Anna, and son Georgie, in their own vacation home, mentally torment, and ultimately physically destroy them all within the first night of their arrival.
While the film's antagonists are relentlessly toying with the young family throughout; by means of testing and quickly taking advantage of any sort of social politeness, constantly calling each other by different names, and quickly revealing their hand in their ultimate plan to kill them all by dawns break, Haneke does not shy away from toying with his audience with just as much sinister glee. The opening credits are accompanied by gentle and pleasant opera music while the family drives to their vacation home, until it abruptly changes to absolutely ballistic death metal screaching through the speakers, signaling the change from tranquility to absolute chaos, much like their evening would play out to be. There are also multiple points in the movie where main antagonist Paul (Arno Frisch) breaks the fourth wall and gives winks and glances towards the audience, as if he knows why were there, like eager accomplices to their menacing and ultra coordinated plan of attack.
As the film unfolds the acts of violence quickly ramp up and you begin to feel just as helpless as the young family as you follow along with the long shot camera takes and steady cam shots almost willing your thoughts onto the characters to try to do anything they can to subdue their captors. The entire opening act leads up to them all winding up in the living room where the " games" begin and the bleakness of this families story is rapidly coming to the forefront. But just before we think we are totally in it for the long haul, Young Georgie manages to escape the house and give the audience some hope that at least one of the mainstream rules of horror may be abided by; children are always safe.
That may be the case in most movies...but not this one. Ultimately Georgie is brought back to the house, only now he has, from his own lack of weapon handling skills, given the young men a big shot gun and some shells to further threaten the family with. Haneke then delivers the most horrific and devastating game of "eenie meenie miney mo" to which the captors decide who will be able to survive the first killing...or be killed first? Do they really know?
Fortunately Haneke does have mercy on us as he pans to the kitchen to follow Paul while he VERY casually whips together a sandwich for himself, leading us wondering who the first victim will be until we hear the dreaded blast. Silence. Whimpers. Questions. An incredibly masterful scene where the escape from the violent imagery truly proved to be all the more devastating when we finally return to the living room and learn that young Georgie was the first one to fall victim to the shot gun, to which the young men disagree on being the plan at all, shining a bright light on their cruelty and inconsideration for human life.
At this point in the film we shift to the third act where all efforts to escape are quickly thwarted and Georg and Anna are both left meeting their grim demises, not before the most interesting part of the film. Anna, in an attempt to break free, grabs the shot gun off the table and shoots one of the men, killing him. But Haneke, again only toying with us, does not grant us that satisfaction as his main madman Paul frantically reaches for the television remote, and rewinds the scene we are seeing to before Anna's sudden move, only to stop her from completing it in the first place. Truly the work of someone looking to seriously throw any sort of happy ending idea into everyones face, Haneke takes the film home killing off both Georg and Anna and leaving us to watch the two young men prepare to move onto the next family on this little vacation destination concluding the film entirely.
I chose this as my first film in my series because I truly think of the types of movies that may wind up on this little blog, it is one of if not the best in terms of film making and story writing. Though the content is absolutely devastating, it is still presented in such an incredibly twisted and interesting way that you would think you could only get from some sort of dark comedy. Therefore pushing the envelop of how disturbing this movie truly is given the presentation of such bleak and horrible content.
If you haven't seen this one, give it a watch and be sure to check out the original 1997 film before you decide to watch the American remake from 2008. As always, enjoy and never stop exploring the movies that you may be too afraid to be exposed to.