31 Days Of Horror (Day 11) – Straw Dogs

Things go bump in the night, others will devour your soul, some will slice, dice eat your heart with a nice glass of Chianti. October has now arrived which can mean only one thing 31 Days of Horror has now arrived again. For the next 31 days, we will dive deep into the catacombs of horror to pick you a movie. Every day will be different ranging from the classics to the weird and wonderful. Many you might have heard of, some will be new to you. There will be personal favourites that you may like, others you may hate but they all will unleash those emotions that make us love horror.

Day 11 Aly Lalji today’s choice looks at a remake Straw Dogs.On paper technically not a horror but for the victims’ horrific experience
So yet again another classic film gets a remake and one’s clichéd response, is to moan and groan to say, ‘not again, can’t Hollywood come up with something original?’ Nonetheless, please take in to consideration that sometimes, re-makes can be more embraced by the mainstream public, but even a fan of the original must be tempted to compare and contrast. Let’s be honest, sometimes films can be so dated that it needs to be re-recognised. ‘Last House on the Left’ was an excellent re-make, ‘I Spit on your Grave’, even better. ‘Rob Zombie’s Halloween’ was immaculate. Now ‘Straw Dogs’ comes into the equation and one must ask themselves, does it hold up to the original?
Let’s see, Dustin Hoffman, one of the most prestigious actors in Hollywood is replaced in the role of David Sumner by James Marsden. Cyclops in ‘X-Men,’ Corny Collins in ‘Hairspray’ and Prince Edward in ‘Enchanted.’ It can hardly match up to the standard of Hoffman’s impressive resume. Raymond Babbitt: ‘Rain Man’, Ted Kramer: ‘Kramer VS Kramer’, Michael Dorsey: ‘Tootsie’. It is safe to say that Hoffman beats Marsden by a mile. Putting that aside, Marsden delivers the goods with dedication and determination. Highest marks for effort must be rewarded to him as he gives Sumner’s character a cowardice feel towards his red neck protagonist, Charlie, played by Alexander Skarsgard. However, every coward has a demon inside them that is dying to get out. When Marsden lets the demon out towards the climactic final fight scene, the audience applaud him and he wins us over.

Kate Bosworth on the other hand, plays Amy Sumner, a newly married woman to David, who has just moved from the city to Blackwater, Mississippi, her childhood town. Her performance is seductive and plays a temptress to the villains. As she sweats and her nipples become transparent after a jog, she gets stared at by the drooling red necks. It is true that they must be “complimented on their taste”. It must be noted, that the pivotal rape scene and her nudity is tamer than the original that Susan George provided. Nevertheless, a good re-make needs something extra, hence violence has been provided to glamorous effect by writer/director Rod Lurie.

As the newly married couple lives in Amy’s childhood home, the local red necks offer to build and renovate their barn roof. The tension builds to see disagreements and powerful subtext, regarding biblical morals between Marsden and Skarsgard. The relationship between Charlie and David played by Skarsgard leads to harassment. The foreshadowing is obvious, bloodshed must take place. At the climax the metaphors are excellent. The wolves try to break into the pig’s house. But maybe David Sumner is the third little pig. He will do what it takes to use any means necessary to protect him and his wife. This includes extreme violence that will make the audience excited, ecstatic and elated.

When Marsden Throws boiled water in James Woods face, feeling his pain is to die for. One can say, Woods has not lost his touch to play the evil villain we love to hate. His objective, along with Skarsgard and his friends is to brutally kill a mentally disabled man, Jeremy Niles, played by ‘Prison Break’s’ Dominic Purcell, as he may have taken advantage of Woods’ daughter. As Marsden and Bosworth do their best to protect him in their home, the audience ask themselves the question: How far are you willing to go out your way to protect him? Marsden can be seen as the knight trying to protect his pathetic king. Boy! Does he do a good job.

‘Straw Dogs’ is a remake well worth watching. It needed an update considering the 1971 atmosphere can no longer be appreciated, by an average mainstream moviegoer. Upping the ante on violence and taming down the sexual content is an acceptable combination. This film can now enter the hall of fame for good re-makes such as ‘Ocean’s Eleven’, whereas, ‘The Omen’ and ‘Psycho’ don’t.

Aly Lalji

Thriller | USA, 2011 | 15 | Dir.Rod Lurie | James Marsden, Kate Bosworth, Alexander Skarsgård

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