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Bad Movie Tuesday: Straw Dogs

January 17, 2012

I know why the Straw Dogs remake failed critically and financially. This film forgets about the journey and focuses only on the destination. The characters, plot and screenplay do not matter. They are all a device for good-looking people to violate other good-looking people.

I’m not going to get into the remake but I will show you two pictures that summarize the main characters.

You know exactly what will happen after looking at these pictures.

The original Straw Dogs incited rage, discussion and more rage 1971. The film starred Dustin Hoffman as a mathematician moving to Cornwall with his English wife. Hoffman wants to be the money-maker and his wife to be in the kitchen and bedroom. The only way she would agree is if he does all the male tasks. A culture clash occurs, their house is attacked, cats are strung up in closets and Hoffman puts on his Under Armour and protects his house. The film opened to mass protest and director Sam Peckinpah was blasted for the debasement of women. This film provided an important discussion and opened the same year as Dirty Harry and Clockwork Orange.

The violence was ugly. However, in the new film it is inevitable. When violence becomes predictable it loses the impact. However, people who remake films don’t understand this. They are remaking the films to be flashy junk  where characters are secondary and violence is glorified.

This may seem like an odd example  but I wanted to share a story.  Forrest Griffin the former light heavyweight champion of the UFC wrote a ridiculous book in which he explains man etiquette (I bought it when a Borders bookstore was closing). In the book he talks how he and his meathead friends roughed up a seemingly timid nerd on the Georgia Tech campus. However, something surprising happened. No matter what they did the guy would not stop attacking them. He was a 150 pound wild man screaming “You will have to kill me!”

The situation became ugly as no matter how far they threw him he would not give up. He never stopped attacking them.  They had to run into their car and drive away while a bloodied weakling chased them away.

This situation was a turning point in Griffin’s life. It proved that even the smallest man can become primal if pushed far enough. The situation was ugly, sad and unnecessary.

The original Straw Dogs was not pretty. It was a powder keg waiting to explode.  The world was changing and men and womens roles were reversing. The material was timely and worthy to be explored. Peckinpah knew the time was right to push buttons.

New York Times writer Terrence Rafferty sums the button pushing well when he said:

“It was Sam Peckinpah’s nature to want to show his audience what it didn’t want to see, to make it feel what it didn’t think it could feel. When you watch his “Straw Dogs,” you come out knowing more about yourself. Or perhaps less. All you can tell for sure is that it hurts.”

Have you heard anything about the remade Straw Dogs? The film was directed by a famous film critic and stars Oscar nominated thespians, heart throbs, super heroes and television stars. A movie about rape, murder, violence, sex and manliness has been forgotten quickly.

The reason is that there are no surprises. I’d compare it to the unnecessary shot for shot remake of Psycho. You are watching ugly for no reason. If I hadn’t been writing I would have fallen asleep. My self-defense mechanism for bad remakes is sleep. The new Texas Chainsaw, Nightmare on Elm Street and Jason films had me snoring by the 30 minute mark.

The 1974 Texas Chainsaw didn’t make me fall asleep.  Much like the 1971 Straw Dogs Chainsaw was edgy, dangerous and cheap. I watched it with five of my friends over ten years ago. We were a bunch of punk kids who terrorized our town (in fun ways) and always had something to say. After the film we all walked quietly to our cars. None of us said a word or thought the terror was awesome. It beat us down. We were all disturbed at the journey we had just taken. I guarantee we all checked our houses for chainsawing behemoths that night before we tried to sleep.

I’m not saying that the original Texas is a good film. I will never watch it again. However, it was effective and shut up five cocky teenagers who thought they were tough. The reason this film is still brought up in discussion is because it hurts. A tiny film had a big impact with audiences around  the world.

Audience were not kind to the new Straw Dogs. The film made only $10.3 million. This is not a new trend with remakes.

The remake of  The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is underperforming at the box office.  The studio was predicting huge numbers but instead were left debating if they should make the sequels (they are). One of the reasons I think it has underperformed is because the marketing stressed sex and violence. The tagline was “the feel bad movie of Christmas.” Sex and violence can only get you so far. If the two mattered than Showgirls would have been the biggest film ever. TGWTDT should have marketed the strong female lead and its unique Swedish look. The movie is good but the marketing may have kept viewers away.

Don’t watch the new Straw Dogs. The film is unnecessary. Watch the original instead. At the very least it will provide a discussion.

We did a horror movie remake and the eight finalists were films that improved upon their originals. the violence of Evil Dead 2 and The Thing are great because you are invested in the characters and care what happens to them.


3 Comments leave one →
  1. VJ Long permalink
    January 17, 2012 9:11 am

    With all the advancements in film, and the ability to make a fairly descent movie on a shoe string budget, one would think it is possible to make a solid remake. I don’t understand why remakes fail left and right. My idea…DON’T MAKE REMAKES! Odds are you won’t be able to improve on the original. Mark, The Thing is a prime example. The remake was predictable to the point it wasn’t even fun to watch. Thank god the heavy set woman next to me felt like making out, otherwise my Thing remake experience would have been a complete bust.

    I don’t think I’m going to watch the new Straw Dogs, especially after reading this review. Filmmakers can get remakes right from time to time, but in most cases the original is best left alone. It’s time to ask the question; where are all the creative filmmakers with New ideas? Let’s see something fresh that’s never been done before…

  2. Crazy straw dogs permalink
    January 17, 2012 10:18 pm

    Great review. I’d rather listen to Forest Griffin playing a harmonica for two hours than watch this crap bomb

  3. January 18, 2012 8:54 am

    I completely agree with your views. I cannot even bother watching a trailer to this new Straw Dogs movie, because it is so pointless in my opinion. I guess filmmakers just cannot resist making remakes and sequels – when they do produce some tasteless remake they appear to me like some greedy, unsatisfied, brainless baboons. And only to imagine they are re-making ‘American Psycho’ now. It is sad…

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