To celebrate the upcoming release of the new psychological terror-filled tale Straw Dogs, Dread Central has decided to take a look back at movie characters who, like that film’s David Sumner, have been pushed too far.
“How far would you go when pushed to your breaking point?” Over the years some great films have forced audiences to ask that question of themselves, and the chilling Straw Dogs, hitting theaters on September 16th, will do the same.
When we think of a movie character pushed too far, the man who comes immediately to mind is Michael Douglas’ William Foster from Falling Down (If the guy would have just given him change for the phone). Douglas is simply brilliant as “D-Fens”. His seething anger radiates from the film as he begins to become unraveled one piece at a time until his final bloody demise.
How about Travis Bickle? Perhaps Martin Scorsese’s most disturbed character, Robert DeNiro’s Taxi Driver psycho Bickle is an unbalanced Vietnam vet who hates the world he sees around him. He’s infuriated and disgusted by New York’s diseased underbelly, including a 12-year-old prostitute named Iris (played by Jodie Foster in the role that inspired John Hinckley, Jr., to attempt to assassinate President Reagan). The debauchery of the city inspires Bickle into a suicide mission hoping to save just one person from the merciless streets of the city.
Early in his career Wes Craven was masterful at pushing characters to their breaking points. In his first film, The Last House on the Left, released in 1972, Craven led two very innocent parents to the brink of insanity as they came to the realization their daughter had been murdered and the perpetrators were in their house. Crazed by grief, they exact their revenge with everything from chainsaws to the most painful blow job of all time.
Craven followed up that landmark film with another in his second directorial effort, The Hills Have Eyes. Although set in a very different location, Hills again takes the average man and attacks his moral boundaries. The iconic final scene of the once-civilized Doug uncontrollably stabbing Mars, thus losing his grip on reality, speaks volumes.
You true film aficionados will certainly remember the name of Major Charles Rane. Here we have a character who truly suffered. In the 1977 film Rolling Thunder William Devane plays Major Rane, a Vietnam prisoner of war in Hanoi, who returns home to find his wife (thinking Rane dead) engaged to another man and a young son who doesn’t even remember him. From there thugs attack Rane, mangling his hand in a garbage disposal and killing his family. This is a man pushed too far. He simply enlists a young Tommy Lee Jones and takes care of business, Hanoi style. If you missed this one, go back and check it out!
And it’s not always men who get pushed beyond the breaking point. Jennifer Hills, the lead character in I Spit on Your Grave, certainly falls into this category. Sadistically raped and abused, Jennifer manages to recover from her violation and track down her attackers for retribution. Day of the Woman, indeed!
Other women who were pushed to the edge include the insanely abused Lucie from Martyrs, pregnant Sarah from the French film Inside and Yasmine from Frontier(s). All these women were abused into insanity, leading to unspeakable actions.
Things haven’t changed in recent films. Pushing the limits of the mind has always been an enthralling subject, and that holds true today. The uber-controversial A Serbian Film introduces us to Milos, a semi-retired porn star who takes on a somewhat suspicious final role. The absolute picture of a man who has fallen over the edge is illustrated on Milos’ face during the beheading scene, shortly after he is drugged and mindless. Milos is backed into a corner by the heartless director, Vukmir. He is trapped, and his rage is brilliantly captured by Srdjan Todorovic in A Serbian Film.
And who better to use as our final man pushed over the edge than the Hobo himself? Like Travis Bickle and William Foster, the Hobo With a Shotgun is disgusted by the depravity he sees in ‘Scum Town’ and decides to take matters into his own hands. And mimicking Bickle, Rutger Hauer’s surly, blood-letting Hobo focuses his rage on saving one girl from the hopelessness offered by the city. He may not be a young man, but Hobo With a Shotgun proves that pushing a man too far, at any age, can have seriously bloody repercussions.
Which brings us back to Straw Dogs, a film that forces us to look at ourselves and contemplate what we would do if faced with the same situation we see unfolding on the screen before us. Audiences can look forward to an intensely disturbing story when Straw Dogs, directed by Rod Lurie and starring James Marsden, Kate Bosworth, James Woods, Dominic Purcell and Alexander Skarsgard, hits theaters on September 16th.
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