Monday Morning Quarterback Part II
By BOP Staff
September 20, 2011
What the heck is a straw dog, anyway?
Kim Hollis: Straw Dogs, the remake of the well-regarded Sam Peckinpah film, earned $5.1 million. Why wasn't Screen Gems able to work its usual magic with this one?
Brett Beach: I have actively avoided the original Straw Dogs for reasons I can't fully articulate, except to suggest that it seemed unsavory and disturbing enough that I might need to take a lot of showers afterwards. Considering Rod Lurie's past filmography (The Contender and Nothing But the Truth among them and those a pair that I would highly recommend), I am more than a little surprised that this would be a film he would want to tackle. I watched the trailer a few days ago to see get some insight and although it presents the plot straightforwardly enough, I think there might have been confusion about whether it was more horror home invasion torture like The Strangers or revenge torture porn like 2009's Last House on the Left. That coupled with the not exactly box-office boosting combo of non-Cyclops James Marsden and Kate Bosworth kept the opening on the weak side and will help this throw well underneath both.
Edwin Davies: Brett's aversion to the original Straw Dogs indicates to me one of the problems the remake was always going to have; not many people have heard of the original, and those who have either think it's a disturbing and horrible masterpiece (which it is) or want nothing to do with it. So the potential audience members who are aware of the original either won't see the remake because it's sacrilege, or because they want nothing to do with the story full stop. In terms of why the film didn't reach a broader audience, it's worth remembering that Straw Dogs was shot over two years ago, and during the time that it has been sat waiting to be unleashed, the extreme horror genre that, based on the trailer, it set out to exploit has declined considerably. That it was released in the doldrums of September suggests that Screen Gems probably realized that they had a film that was neither good nor fashionable, and felt that they should take their chances now when there are relatively few horror films on the slate. It didn't work, but at this point they probably don't care that much about Straw Dogs anymore.
Max Braden: This was a third rail project from the start, and not unlike Gus Van Sant's shot-for-shot remake of Psycho in 1998. You had to expect that those that saw and appreciated the original Straw Dogs either wouldn't want to go through it again, or just wouldn't think that Marsden would hold a candle to Dustin Hoffman. The original also had an implied moral/political context that was relevant in the Vietnam era in a different sense than would connect to now. And as Brett points out, it's not exactly the kind of torture porn that would appeal to the younger generation. So the movie ends up falling between the cracks of two different demographics, appealing to very few. I think they were lucky to get more than Bucky Larson.
Reagen Sulewski: To add to Max's comments, while Straw Dogs is a classic and iconic film among film nerds like us, it's not something that has a lot of resonance in the general public, I think. "Straw what? Peckinwho?" So not only are you making a film that's out of time and out of style, you're remaking something with almost no resonance to modern audiences. How many people would be able to peg this as a remake? So what are you cashing in on? Of course, since I wish for nothing but bad things for Rod Lurie's film career, this doesn't displease me much.