Upon its release (within a month of Stanley Kubrick's similar meditation on ultra-violence, A Clockwork Orange), Straw Dogs sharply divided critics and audiences over whether it exploited and glorified macho bloodshed or commented on the violence that had become a fact of 1960s American life. Peckinpah proclaimed his own distaste for violence, suggesting that Straw Dogs portrays how society fails to eradicate primitive drives, leading to territorial warfare. What cannot be denied is Peckinpah's ability to elicit a visceral response to the onscreen turmoil, leaving a viewer either to cheer on David's descent toward bloody retribution or be repulsed by the evil that men do. With jittery editing and gloomy cinematography, Peckinpah creates an unsettling atmosphere of foreboding; the town's unexplained animosity adds to the suggestion that what drives them all, including the intellectual David, is beyond the bounds of "civilization." True to the complex nature of these issues, Straw Dogs' ending provides no easy answers or reassurances about what transpires in the Sumner home.
by Lucia Bozzola review