Being in the Halloween spirit, I recently decided to sit down and watch a “scary movie”. I’m not a big fan of scary movies, so this is a rarity for me – and I’ve been waiting for the right time to watch Funny Games – a U.S. remake of the original French Version which I had read a lot about in recent months.
For those of you who haven’t seen it, please stop reading (SPOILER ALERT).
This movie was really not what I was expecting in the least, and I can’t stop thinking about it. My wife sat, terrified, through out the entire movie; while I sat watching it in contemplation – feeling the strange sensation that I’d somehow been through these motions before. Who were these “sociopaths”, and why did they seem to care so little about the lives of those they are hurting? Why don’t they ever sleep? How can one be eating while another shoots a child in the head?
It wasn’t until the scene where the woman gets a hold of the gun and kills one of the two sociopaths that it all came together for me. Shortly after she shoots him, the other sociopath digs around for a remote control and, upon finding it, rewinds the movie back to before she reached for the gun. Then, when she reaches for it, he grabs it away from her. They were in total control over what was happening the entire time! Twice even turning to the camera and addressing the audience directly.
As soon as he pressed the rewind button and took control of the “game”, I was reminded of a moment I experienced while playing Grand Theft Auto IV (Liberty City). I had picked up an M16 and was wandering through central park. I saw a group of three girls jogging, and I was following them in my sights. They saw that I was following them and they all screamed and started to run away. I aimed down at the left leg of the middle girl and pulled the trigger. The bullet tore through her leg, blood spraying on the ground, and she fell down screaming, “No. I’ve worked too hard on this body!”. I slowly walked up to her writhing on the ground and I aimed the gun at her head. She screamed, “Please! No!!”. Utterly impressed with the game’s engine, I pulled the trigger and watched her head explode all over the sidewalk.
This, in my opinion, is the core of the movie Funny Games. The two “sociopaths” aren’t actually sociopaths at all; they are game players. They don’t care about what the people feel or think because the people aren’t real. They are pushing the people’s buttons in these horrible ways because they are curious about how the people will react; how the game works; And speaking of the people, they couldn’t have been more cardboard-cutout. Perfect, happy, rich families with boring predictable lives – these are the archetypes of video game characters.
So, scary movie? Not really. What scares me is the thought that someday a video game could be that real. So real that the players and the in-game characters are indiscernable from one another. I didn’t feel any shame for killing a chunky, pixelated blip in GTA4 – but what if she looked and acted just like a real person. What if it was as real as me walking outside and doing it to someone jogging past my house? What would that do to my psyche?
I guess we’ll see when it happens…