It’s not often than an updated remake of a classic film can capture the complexity that made the original a classic, but Straw Dogs does.
Amy (Kate Bosworth) grew up in Blackwater, Mississippi and left town after high school to become a Hollywood actress. Unlike most girls who dare attempt such a cliche move, Amy made it. Kind of. She played a side character on a hit television series. On set, she met her future husband David (James Marsden), one of the shows writers. Since then, Amy’s on-screen persona has fizzled out. David, on the other hand, is exploding. He’s become a credible writer.
Since Amy’s father passed away, the family’s secluded backwoods home has sat empty. The dusty house could use a deep clean and the barn’s roof is in dire need of repair after hurricane damage. As Amy returns to Blackwater to get the family’s home cleaned up and ready for selling, David makes use of the quiet seclusion by finishing his World War II screenplay.
Once in smalltown Blackwater, people and memories from Amy’s past flood back – whether she wants them to or not. She visits the old hangout, speeds down the dusty roads and even runs into her old high school sweetheart Charlie (Alexander Skarsgård). Amy handles it all well, but hiring Charlie and his old wrecking crew to repair the barn’s roof is the one decision that drastically tips the scale for all parties involved.
Sam Peckinpah’s original Straw Dogs is considered a 40-year-old classic for many reasons. Every single one of those reason is everpresent in this Americanized, modernized remake. The characters still possess a current socio-political representation. The roles of class are challenged. The definition of masculinity is questioned. And it’s all done while slowly increasing in intensity until the pot comes to a raging boil. (Be warned and prepared for a disturbing double-rape scene and grizzly graphic violence.)
Anyone unfamiliar with the original film that walks into Straw Dogs this weekend expecting a full-on thriller like the trailers make it out to be is going to be either sorely disappointed or surprisingly pleased by the type of film Straw Dogs really is. Fans of the original need to throw out the preconceived idea that “Straw Dogs is a classic that needs not be remade because there’s nothing left to be brought to the table.”
This is one of the rare times that a remake has proven to be worth it. Just like the more recent remake of The Karate Kid, Straw Dogs takes the dated story, characters, morals, themes and interpretations and makes them fresh and appealing for a modern audience unfamiliar with the original. If all remakes could be as true and faithful to their originals as Straw Dogs is, then remakes would be the most popular type of film out there. But until that change of integrity happens, Straw Dogs will remain the rare remake gem that it is.
Photo credit: Screem Gems