David (Marsden) and Amy (Bosworth) move into her childhood home, which is now vacant and slightly damaged after Hurricane Katrina, for a couple of weeks to work on a film script. Amy’s hometown is the kind where everyone knows each other and the biggest event is the high-school football games. David hires a bunch of locals to repair the house’s roof, one of whom, Charlie (Skarsgard), turns out to be Amy’s ex, who still has a thing for her. The workers belittle David’s Harvard ways and look down on him as a lesser man. They actively seek out opportunities to intimidate David and harass Amy, turning their creative getaway into a living nightmare.

Straw Dogs focuses mainly on the culture clash between David, the Hollywood screenwriter, and the workers. Marsden plays the upper class David, who finds himself being measured by a completely different standard of masculinity than the one he personally endorses. He represents cerebral masculinity while Skarsgard’s Charlie represents the physical. David is self-absorbed and doesn’t have the slightest clue how to deal with the culture shock, which makes it very easy, not to mention highly satisfying, for Charlie and his gang of rednecks to exploit his insecurities and naivety.

As time goes on, David’s utter failure to prove that he has a backbone inspires the workers to take their intimidation games to the next level. They abandon David on a hunting trip, in which they attempt to shoot him, go round to his house and rape Amy. This scene is supposed to be the film’s turning point where it descends from bullying to outright sadism, but it is barely coherent due to the rapid editing that flits back and forth between Amy being raped, David hunting and various shots of their surroundings. After their various ordeals, the two decide to tough it out, refusing to be driven out of their own home, culminating in a brutal half-hour attack by Charlie and his gang on their house, where people are killed using shotguns, bear traps, nail guns and golf clubs.

Compared to Sam Pekinpah’s controversial 1971 original starring Dustin Hoffman in the lead role, Straw Dogs’ lack of suspense drags it down immensely. From the moment Amy and David roll into town in their convertible Jaguar until right before the big house attack, the stakes stay around pretty much the same level and the escalation of danger isn’t nearly pronounced enough. Alexander Skarsgard is the film’s high point, imbuing his calm, graceful demeanour with a chilling intensity that becomes more pronounced the more he sees of Amy. He is the most unsettling thing about this film.

As far as thrillers go, this one won’t have you on the edge of your seat. However, if bloody, horrific murders are your thing, the final showdown is epically gruesome and nerve-wracking.