Straw Dogs, a remake of a 1971 film, is not another horror/thriller with all the workings of what you would normally expect from the genre. It’s not a movie that has you begging for a cool fatality or a plot twist to salvage the $10 you feared has gone to waste. It’s a film that captures a setting and builds characters with great detail that, by halfway through, you lose the anticipation of a quick chilling murder and start listening to dialogue and watching body language as you feel the tension rising.
As the story kicks off, you become familiar with a newly married couple from California driving down an old country road in a vintage Jaguar. The husband, David (James Marsden), is a writer who met his wife, Amy (Kate Bosworth), an actress, on the set of a TV show. The couple decides to move back to Amy’s hometown in the deep south where the only relevant activities are religion and football.
The main struggle in the movie is David’s attempt to fit in with the locals. The town becomes a character in itself as David’s California demeanor puts him in many awkward situations that he resolves with a “when in Rome” kind of attitude.
I thoroughly enjoyed watching David’s transformation from a nervous, friendly character that you expect to get hacked and slashed early in the movie, to a man who uses intelligence to fight back against the once friendly locals. The movie also has a sub-story that can be compared to the novel Of Mice and Men, as it ties into the final scene where it’s David, Amy and their house versus a group of drunken locals.
This is one of very few movies I have ever seen where, when facing death, the main characters stay calm and use intelligence while being hunted. I can honestly say I would have done every action they did in order to survive. It was refreshing and a nice change from most horror/thriller movies in which the main characters make rash and questionable decisions.
Yes, this movie didn’t receive enthusiastic reviews, most likely due to the lack of action until the end. But what I enjoyed most was watching the drama build between the loving couple and the perfect small, southern town.
This is a smart well-written movie that is not packed with a lot of action but does the job making you feel lost and alone in the world of southern hospitality. I recommend this well-done remake to anybody who appreciates a well-done not-so-flashy thriller.
Tyler Stinson may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org