The 2011 action-thriller Straw Dogs was a remake of the original film of the same name from 1971 that featured an equal amount of violence and fear. The ending of the film granted Straw Dogs the ability to also be considered horror since the gripping fear of the town’s invasion of the protagonist’s home was horrifying. Alexander Skarsgård played the antagonist in this film, earning major scary points for being a realistic egomaniacal monster. His role in Straw Dogs is much more terrifying than his recent performance in the epic historical film The Northman.
Skarsgård gained his first role in the horror genre when he was cast as Eric Northman (ironic, yes) in the HBO Series True Blood. He played a morally gray romantic interest for the female lead, toeing the line between antagonist and supporting role like many characters on the show. He gained a strong fan base from this character, and they followed his career into his next projects, including the surprisingly violent movie Straw Dogs which did not prepare audiences for the level of violence shown in the film unless they were familiar with the original movie from 1971.
Although they displayed his body often throughout the film, indicating to the audience he was a “sexy” character meant to tempt the protagonist’s wife Amy (Kate Bosworth), he turned into something much scarier than initially implied once he sexually assaulted her in her home . According to DailyMail.com, Bosworth had encouraged Skarsgård to really go for it in the scene. They had both claimed to be good friends and comfortable with one another, so she felt safe enough with him to give him complete physical control of the scene. Even with this trust, his performance was so chilling that Bosworth was genuinely afraid during filming and had to keep reminding herself that it was fake.
After that intensely terrifying moment, the tone of the Straw Dogs completely changed. Amy’s initial concerns about Charlie (Skarsgård) and his friends were consistently pushed aside by David (James Marsden) who was the protagonist. Amy consistently berated David for not being strong enough to protect her from the men in town, but David had thought she was overreacting. Charlie’s assault on Amy was proof enough to the audience that she wasn’t being dramatic at all and that these townsmen would do whatever it took to reclaim what they believed to be theirs from an outsider.
The plot grows scarier as the final home invasion scene from the film takes place at David and Amy’s house. They’re held hostage by the townspeople, including Charlie who seems to be the muscle behind the entire operation. The sheriff arrives to calm the situation down, but he’s killed by one of the townspeople. As a fight ensues between David and the people of the town, Amy hides upstairs with another character they’ve chosen to protect from the bloodthirsty townies. Charlie drives through the house and is initially knocked unconscious, but he heads straight to Amy once he’s regained his consciousness.
An added layer of threat from Charlie is the fact that he doesn’t see himself as a predator toward Amy. He kills one of his friends to protect her, and he says, “I will always protect you, baby.” David and Charlie scuffle after this, and they each fight for their lives. Charlie is big and strong and can easily overpower him, but David kills Charlie by closing a bear trap over his head. The hardcore fights and threats made Skarsgård’s character incredibly threatening and terrifying, rivaling that of his role in The Northman.
Comparatively, Amlet in The Northman is morally gray compared to Charlie who was a terrifying abuser and killer. Amleth has a history of killing and seeking revenge in violent ways, but his motivation is very different, and he claims to never wish to hurt a woman. Although both characters are powerful and threatening, Charlie from Straw Dogs takes the cake for being the most terrifying character Skarsgård has played.