Red Riding Hood (2011)

March 16, 2011 - 12:36pm | Johnny D
  Tags: Amanda Seyfried, Appian Way, Catherine Hardwicke, David Johnson, drama, Gary Oldman, gothic, Julie Christie, Little Red Riding Hood, Lukas Haas, Max Irons, Michael Hogan, Red Riding Hood, romance, Shiloh Fernandez, The Girl with the Red Riding Hood, thriller, Virginia Madsen, Warner Bros. Pictures

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Catherine Hardwicke
Amanda Seyfried, Shiloh Fernandez, Max Irons, Gary Oldman, Julie Christie, Michael Hoga, Lukas Haas, Virginia Madsen

Before you let lose with an endless barrage of hatred accusing this movie of not being a horror film, trust me when I say that, unlike what the trailers show, its structure is that of a legit creature feature.  That being said, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a great creature feature.   Unfortunately, Warner Brothers didn’t get the memo and hired the director of Twilight to neuter this wolf and leave us with a final product that, despite being extremely pretty looking, is the definition of mediocre.  It’s not awful, it’ not good, it just “is”.

I don’t understand the recent Hollywood trend of redoing fairy tales, but when you run out of 80s movies to remake you have to get your banality from somewhere, I suppose.  Expanding the tale into a feature length story, we’re introduced to Amanda Seyfried’s Valerie.  She’s torn between the man she loves and the one she’s betrothed to…oh yeah, and there’s a werewolf stalking the village who also has set its sights on her.  Or is the werewolf one of her intended lovers?  Red Herrings amount and bodies pile up as Gary Oldman rears his scenery chewing head as a priest with a penchant for hunting supernatural beings.

Red Riding Hood’s creature feature structure is sewn together with a love triangle, and a who-done-it mystery.  And that’s all well in good, if only these three elements worked separately, let alone sloppily meshed together.  Even by PG-13 standards, the creature action is ultra tame with piles of dead bodies, yet nearly a drop of bloodshed, not to mention the questionable effects work of the werewolf itself.  The love triangle is a failure, considering the fact that for not one second do you think Valerie will choose lame-o Henry instead of brooding Peter.  In Les Mis you know that Marius isn’t going to run off with poor, dirty Eponine instead of pristine Cossette, but you become invested because Eponine is a strong character.  Not so much in this case.  

Did I also mention the issue of presenting a story ripe for sexual awakening metaphors with almost no sex (I don’t count a make-out session in the hey where Peter loosens Valerie’s corset…that’s right, not take it off or even attempt to take it off…just loosens it.  Pussy).  The guessing game of which townsperson is the werewolf is neither clever, nor engaging, and completely falls apart upon the revelation with a forced reference to the original Red Riding Hood tale.

Despite the fact that it was marketed as being in the vein of Twilight, I actually had some minor hope for this little project.  I love the cast, including Seyfried and Deadgirl’s Shilo Fernandez, the screenplay was written by Orphan’s David Johnson, and director Catherine Hardwicke was still in my good graces for her good-teenage-girl-gone-slut drama Thirteen.  The woman is talented and has the visual eye to create a great looking film, but I’m still holding my breath for a worthy follow-up to her hard-hitting debut.

Whenever a movie has so much going for it and disappoints like Red Riding Hood, it’s easy to cop-out and throw the blame on money hungry studio interference.  You’d be surprised how many times a studio’s “meddling” can actually save a film, but in this case I’ll have to join the masses and verbally castrate the powers that be.  I read David Johnson’s earlier draft for “The Girl with the Red Riding Hood”, and, to be honest, it did have its problems, some of which are still evident in the final product (mostly when it tries to stick too close to the source material).  But, dammit, it was SO much better than what ended up on the screen. 

From the killer opening, to the more believable ending and conclusion to the love triangle.  Hardwicke was brought in solely to recapture what she did with Twilight, and I’m sure they paid her a LOT of money to do so.  Which one of us can say that they wouldn’t sell out for the right price?  The problem was this script was never meant to be Twilight, and forcing it to fit the mold has done nothing more than ruin any chance the horror genre had of getting a harmlessly fun werewolf flick (which are way too few and far between).

On the more positive side of things, the film is filled with strong actors, who mostly make the best out of a bad situation.  Julie Christie makes too few screen appearances, in my opinion, and rarely disappoints, while Seyfried is appealing enough to hold the audiences attention through the muddled material.  The visual style of the film is an improvement over that of Twilight, which suffered from a serious case of over saturated color correction.  Hardwicke makes the best of a limited location, ingesting a strong, warm color pallet, despite the fact that it takes place amongst the snowfall in the woods.

Red Riding Hood could have been a strong, fun werewolf film had it not been forced into a role that it was never meant to be.  The acting is there, the direction could have been there, but Warner Brothers was too concerned with creating the next teen fantasy franchise that they didn’t realize they were making a creature feature.  With its strong technical features it’s not a terrible film, just a frustratingly conventional one.

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Johnny D




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