‘Straw Dogs’ shocks viewers with gore

Justin Marietti

In 1971, director Stanley Kubrick released “A Clockwork Orange,” one of the most psychologically and visually shocking films ever seen at the time.

Within that same year, director Sam Peckinpah released “Straw Dogs,” and it blew Kubrick’s masterpiece out of the water.

In fact, the film was so overwhelming to the general audience that it received an “X” rating and was apparently banned in England.

However, over the last 40 years of filmmaking, audiences seem to have become either much less cautious or much more accepting of violent and provocative films.

As viewers, we have become largely desensitized to most graphic on-screen images.

It requires sick and demented material like “The Human Centipede” to even grab people’s attention nowadays.
Is it even possible to make a good, legitimate movie that shocks viewers just as much now as that movie did back then?

Rod Lurie, former movie critic-turned-director, does his best to answer that question with his re-imagining of “Straw Dogs.”

Just like the original, this film follows David and Amy Sumner (James Marsden, Kate Bosworth).

The only difference is that David is a screenwriter instead of a mathematician.

The original film takes place in England. This time around, Sumner and his wife are in a small hick town in the deep southern United States.

Unfortunately, Amy grew up in this town, and they have returned there so that David can quietly work on his latest screenplay while they get their storm-damaged barn repaired at the same time. Things don’t turn out to be quite so simple.

While relaxing at a restaurant, the couple runs into Charlie, one of Amy’s more serious high school boyfriends. Charlie decides to introduce himself to Amy’s husband.

Immediately, the parallels between David and Charlie are set for what is an inevitable collision course.
Charlie and his friends come off as your typical, camouflage-laden bar flies who think they are better than the rest of the world for some unknown reason.

They are easy to dislike right from the start, with their idiotic little quips and failed attempts at wit.

However, like the pushover that he is, David just tucks his tail between his legs and shows the entire bar that he is completely aware of his place in the current situation.

He decides to hire Charlie and his friends to fix the roof of the barn. From there, the tension never stops building until the bitter end.

A few other films that came to mind while watching “Straw Dogs” were “Last House on the Left” and the ever-so-vulgar “I Spit On Your Grave” which have some startling similarities.

Both of those movies were very emotionally and psychologically taxing, but I found myself even more disturbed during parts of this movie.

Of course, none of these movies (especially “I Spit on Your Grave”) are for the faint of heart.

I personally admire any director’s ability to actually cause the audience to feel for the characters involved in such horrible situations.

Rod Lurie does an excellent job of getting underneath the viewer’s skin, which in turn makes the ending even more rewarding.

Ironically, the screenplay David is working on is about the largest battle of World War II.

When his wife asks what it’s about, he says it’s a story about “fighting back; [about] the human spirit.” This ends up being the purpose of the entire film.

As the movie drew to a close, I felt like I may have hated Charlie and his band of morons just as much as David did.

It’s rare to find a film that can deliver like that, but “Straw Dogs” does so in a rather impressive fashion.

Movies may not have the same completely overwhelming effects that they had 40 years ago, but it cannot be said that it’s for a lack of effort on the part of films like this one.