Straw Dogs is another version of the 1971 film starring Dustin Hoffman and Susan George. People are referring to the 2011 version as a remake, but both films are based on the novel The Siege of Trencher’s Farm by Gordon M. Williams. I would not call the current film a remake as much as another adaptation of the novel. I have not seen the 1971 film, and the reviews I have glanced at seem to compare it too much to the 1971 film and say they are too similar. For this reviewer, the material was fresh to me, having never seen or heard anything about Straw Dogs other than the trailers.
The film follows David and Amy Sumner (James Marsden and Kate Bosworth) as they return to Amy’s hometown of Blackwater which is in the very rural South. Amy became an actress on a TV show that David wrote for. They fell in love and got married. After Amy’s father died, they decided to move back to Blackwater for a change in pace and take up residence in Amy’s father’s house. A hurricane destroyed the roof of the barn on the property. David decides to hire a group of roofers local to Blackwater led by Amy’s high school boyfriend Charlie (Alexander Skarsgård) and his group of friends (Rhys Coiro, Billy Bush, and Drew Powell). David realizes fairly quickly that the town and its inhabitants’ way of life is very different than what he is used to.
Straw Dogs opens on a low point with the first shot being a deer buck grazing in the forest. The deer is horribly done. The CGI is awful. I had to ask myself why a film would open with such a terribly done effect. The buck is hunted by Charlie and his friends, and the hunt and killing of the deer set the stage for this creepy film. The bad CGI continues as the group bags the deer and tosses it into the back of a truck. The bad CGI deer makes another appearance later in the film. If you have to cut the budget on something, do not make it the first shot of the film. A stuffed deer would have been better.
My only other complaint would be the lack of bras on Kate Bosworth. I know this is not a problem for the guys out there, but the actress is frequently running around without any support. I found it distracting as I stared at her boobs for more than few scenes (I know, male readers, not really a problem for you). James Marsden does make a comment about it the braless Kate so I am glad it is addressed in the film.
The creepy factor is a hundred times better than any film I have seen in recent memory. I applaud whoever decided to set this film in the Deep South. Hunting southern hicks will always be good for the creepy factor. Charlie and his friends all have that creepy, scary, “I will kill you if you mess with me” vibe going on. As Amy and David arrive in Blackwater, they stop at the local café. Conversations between the locals amounted to “We take care of our own.” They mean that both in a positive and negative connotation. They a pedophile in town (Dominic Purcell) who is a tad slow as well. The town decided to let his brother (Walton Goggins) keep track of him, but if he ever makes a mistake, there will not be a happy ending.
I am assuming there will be complaints that David Sumner (James Marsden) has no balls. He is a screenwriter who does not like to confront anyone if he does not need to. He would rather everyone get along. Even his wife criticizes him for not standing his ground and giving way to Charlie and his friends. Complain all you want about David Sumner needing to “man up,” but that is how the character is supposed to be played. To see what he becomes toward the end of the film is worth him being a weakling for the entire film.
Make no mistake; Straw Dogs is a violent, psychotic thriller. If you do not like Southern psychos wanting to kill you and rip you to shreds, this is not the film for you. There is a very disturbing rape scene that is hard to watch. The end of the film is horribly violent and graphic. There is not much of any nudity. You see a couple of rear ends, but that is about it.
If you can get over the violence, Straw Dogs is a great thriller. It is terrifying and will make you nervous to stop in one of those small Deep South towns. I really enjoyed it and would highly recommend it. This would not be the type of film I would typically watch, but I am glad to have had the chance to see it.
P.S. James Woods was unrecognizable in this film.
I give Straw Dogs 4 “very necessary bras” out of 5.