Remaking a classic that was swamped in controversy the first time around creates a certain set of expectations, with Rod Lurie’s 2011 version of Straw Dogs pushing the boat so far out that the 2011 film’s attempts to recreate such lightning in a bottle backlash felt nothing more than listless and manufactured.
Audiences had become increasingly desensitized to violence and graphic scenes in the 30 years since Sam Peckinpah’s original that turned into a blaze of publicity and severe edits just to secure a theatrical release, ultimately ending with the psychological thriller securing a reputation as one of the best entries in the filmography of one of cinema’s finest-ever directors.
The second stab at adapting Gordon Williams’ novel The Siege of Trencher’s Farm had a lot to live up to, then, but it resolutely failed to even trouble critics or the box office. A Rotten Tomatoes score of 43 percent, an audience average of 34 percent, and only $11 million in ticket sales on a $25 million budget only served to underline the futility of the exercise.
Alexander Skarsgård does give a menacing turn as the former boyfriend of Kate Bosworth’s happily married Amy, and James Woods is on reliably scene-stealing form, but the brutal set pieces that defined Peckinpah’s Straw Dogs can’t help but feel tame in an era where the torture porn fad was only just starting to die out.
In the end, the remake came and went without making a splash, but it has at least made a return to the spotlight on streaming, with FlixPatrol revealing Straw Dogs as one of ViaPlay’s most popular titles this weekend. You have to be in a certain frame of mind to enjoy Straw Dogs, but you’d struggle to enjoy Lurie’s version whatever the weather.