Straw Dogs ★★★★½

90/100

This is an overused phrase, but I'm going to use it anyway. After witnessing Sam Peckinpah's Straw Dogs, I just couldn't move from my seat. It was as if someone super-glued my ass and forced me to watch the entirety of the credits as I slumped further down in posture, desperately trying to sort though the endless thoughts and feelings that flowed through my body.

It isn't very often when a piece of cinema like this comes along, and since it was released in 1971, I highly doubt another film will ever approach the demon-wrestling anguish of Straw Dogs. Peckinpah has always been one for unearthing the poetry within the aura of surrounding violence, but it is here where he unleashes an unrestrained culmination of his trademark grace and brutality.

I assume that Peckinpah went through a great deal of emotional issues while crafting Straw Dogs, but it's a theory that automatically makes sense when the film springs to life, overtaking any amount of attention that was directed elsewhere. I was infuriated, angry and terrified throughout, and even those conventional emotions veered into mysterious and uncharted territory.

Sam Peckinpah fills every frame with a foggy sense of opaqueness and perplexing feeling, and it is this intentional obscurity that brings both startling power and controversy. Funnily enough, I went into Straw Dogs expecting that its shocking moments would be tamed somewhat by the passage of time, but any of those thoughts flew right out the window as soon as the opening scene unfolded, which is one of delicate foreshadowing. It's an unbelievably tough watch.

Above all, Straw Dogs is a troubling, harrowing, and disturbing film, one that I deeply admire and respect more than I actually enjoy. Still, it receives such a high rating because of its superb craftsmanship, with the intense editing and performances ratcheting up tension and character stakes, and its commanding psychological elements.

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