Straw Dogs is a dark, menacing, can’t-look-away psychological thriller. The characters are what make this film shine. David, our hero, is a hip screenwriter from Los Angeles who just entered a world only explored on paper in his screenplays, and he doesn’t even know it. He is full of flavor and in love with his actress wife, Amy, a former resident of this world who escaped for higher ground. David and Amy are opposites. David is cowardly yet industrious, in love with his wife yet in love with his vocabulary. Amy is strong yet submissive, in love with her husband, yet in love with her arrogance. When a crew of locals win the bid to nail on a new roof on Amy’s old house, a bubble begins to grow. David has to stand up to his wife, to the locals, to his own weakness to survive in this film. There is great contrast between his world, an agnostic, realistic world, and that of the southern locals. The problem for these locals, these “Straw Dogs,” is that their community is finished with them when they stop holding a football and start holding a hammer.
This adaptation to the American South is just as convincing as the 1971 film set in rural England. The film-making is tight and uses some wonderful techniques to externalize the struggle plaguing these characters. Quick cuts of the chaotic high school football game drip with terror, showing us the pain that Amy is feeling. I particularly like the cross-cutting between the hunting scene and the scene of Amy’s despair.
Many films jump days, months, or even years in time. Straw Dogs does not, which is why I like it. Particularly, the last 30 minutes of the film play out in near real-time as the bubble bursts sending fire into the air. In this 30 minutes, you will experience the destruction of man. As David says “if they get in here, we’re dead.” One of my all-times favorite films (1971 version) remade into a modern classic.