Watching Straw Dogs proves to be a haunting experience, one where brutal and graphic scenes of violence shock as much as the psychological tension and emotional imbalance presented by all the recurring characters. In a seemingly peaceful village in England horrible incidents occur one after another, and the thin line between good and evil becomes blurry, as the transitions that the characters go through change the way the audiences perceive the whole unnerving intrigue.
David Summer (Dustin Hoffman’s most sinister role), an American mathematician, moves to the isolated town of Cornish along with his gorgeous, young wife Amy. Shortly after their arrival, all the citizens begin to show their dark natures, harassing and assaulting the two newcomers. In the film’s most climatic and disturbing sequence, David decides to fight back against the oppression, and realizes that the only way to fight violence is to do it with even more violence.
In a most insinuating manner, Straw Dogs plays with the viewer’s imagination, fiercely suggesting that David might actually be the antihero of the movie, and the source of all-evil in himself. His strangely unemotional attitude towards all the horrifying occurrences and – even more – towards the tragedy of his wife ironically makes him the antagonist of the film, and sort of a brutal animal that won’t stop till he does too much damage.
The film became famous for its controversial rape scene, which is by far one of the most unsettling scenes of sexual harassment ever filmed. The bestiality and mockery that permeate the film almost all the time makes Straw Dog an emphatic affair where physical bloodbath must give way to deeply psychological struggles between the id and all its counterparts. Sam Peckinpah created a truly gory and forcible tale about bullying, in which man’s worst nightmares suddenly turn into the realizations of his most ferocious ideas and dreams.