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Red Riding Hood

A movie directed by Catherine Hardwicke

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The Better to Ruin a Fairy Tale With, My Dear

  • Mar 12, 2011
Star Rating:

In the hands of director Catherine Hardwicke and screenwriter David Leslie Johnson, Red Riding Hood has been transformed from a simple morality play into a supernatural teen romance. In Hardwicke’s case, I hardly found this surprising, given her previous directorial credit, Twilight. In Johnson’s case, however, I found myself taken aback. This is the same man who penned Orphan, the surprisingly good horror film from 2009 about a manipulative and murderous “little girl.” I think this is a simple case of conflicting styles; Hardwicke once again depicts developing sexuality and chaste eroticism, whereas Johnson falls back on genuinely horrific elements. The result is a confused, unoriginal, unpleasant film that will in all likelihood fail to engage its target audience.
I would wager that the costumes, sets, and locations are nothing close to historically accurate, but this actually works in its favor, for they convey that sense of it taking place long, long ago. With its vague timeframe and vivid color schemes, the film has the unmistakably warm feel of a storybook come to life. This is, sadly, the only thing about it that exceeded my expectations. The plot is muddled and unfocused, unable to find a middle ground between soppy, innocent romance and dark, dreary terror. In its disorder, it also works in witchcraft and a murder mystery, one so obvious and simple minded that it might as well have been a whodunit. If you’re going to revise a classic fairy tale, Red Riding Hood is a perfect example of what not to do.

The setting is the small, isolated woodland village of Daggerhorn, where a wolf preys on the townsfolk. They’re a simple, God-fearing people – which is a kind way of saying that they’re backwards and superstitious. Case in point: They keep out of the woods, and they try to appease the angry beast every month by offering an animal as a sacrifice. Daggerhorn has its share of community stereotypes, none more tiresome and offensive then the village idiot. Although he’s not given much screen time, he does fall victim to ignorance and astonishingly harsh persecution. I thought characters like this had worn out their welcome, especially after Adrian Brody’s appearance in M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village, a God-awful film if ever there was one.
In the midst of all this is a young woman named Valerie (Amanda Seyfried). Her parents have arranged for her to marry Henry (Max Irons), the son of a wealthy blacksmith. But her true love is Peter (Shiloh Fernandez), the poor woodcutter. Their first major scene together seems to have been inspired by the opening of a dime store romance novel; Valerie gazes at Peter as he works up a sweat chopping wood, and when their eyes finally meet, they continue their game of seduction. I was forced to suppress laughter – there’s a very thin line between erotic fantasy and absurd comedy, and this scene crosses it. Perhaps Hardwicke should have gone all out. Valerie should have been a buxom woman with a loose-fitting dress and deep cleavage, and Peter a shirtless hunk with the build of a Greek god and flowing locks of hair.

The mood of the film changes when Valerie’s sister is discovered murdered. The wolf has struck again. To eradicate the problem once and for all, the locals summon Father Solomon (Gary Oldman), who must not be a very good priest given the fact that he was married and has two children. What the people of Daggerhorn fail to realize is that they’re not dealing with an ordinary wolf; they’re dealing with a werewolf, a creature that, by the light of the day, takes on the form of a normal human being. This means that someone in the village isn’t who they appear to be. Solomon informs the people that, when the moon turns blood red – as it has already turned – anyone bitten by a werewolf will be cursed. In his obsession to discover the creature’s identity, he devolves from a defender of the people to a grand inquisitor. He has with him a metal torture chamber shaped like an elephant; the belly is a holding chamber, and when someone is placed inside, a fire is lit underneath.
Who is the werewolf? (Note: As you read the following names, imagine dramatic chords of music, preferably played on an organ.) Is it Peter, who loves Valerie? Is it Henry, who also loves Valerie? Is it her mother (Virginia Madsen), who harbors a family secret? Is it her father (Billy Burke), the town drunk? Is it her grandmother (Julie Christie), who stitched her a brilliant red cloak and lives by the philosophy, “All sorrows are better with bread”? Or is it the butler? I can’t give anything away here, but given the nature of certain shots and the frequency with which certain characters appear, let’s just say that no real effort is made to surprise us. Ultimately, the only surprising thing about Red Riding Hood is the way it butchers the famous scene that begins with, “Grandmother, what big eyes you have....” Somehow, the reply doesn’t carry the same weight it once did.


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March 13, 2011
Great review. We loved the Orphan - Great twist that we didn't see coming.
March 12, 2011
Hardwicke and the guy who penned "Orphan" eh? I think that speaks for itself. I think I'll just get my geek on for something else. Thanks!
March 12, 2011
Yeah, it does. What astounds me is that Orphan was a surprisingly good movie. I guess his writing just doesn't mesh with Hardwicke's adolescent themes.
March 13, 2011
perhaps. That guy has his moments. I was thinking of taking a chance on this tomorrow, but maybe I should see something else....Jane Eyre isn't playing in my area. :(
More Red Riding Hood (2011) reviews
review by . March 14, 2011
I remember hearing Catherine Hardwicke's name for the first time three years ago.  Even though Lords of Dogtown was a hit and Thirteen was one of those films that caught attention in the festival circuit, it was not until she was attached to Twilight that she actually became a "director to watch".  I will confess I was one of those "twi-hards" that stood in line for hours waiting to see what Hardwicke had done to a story that had a growing fan base.  Truth …
review by . March 24, 2011
   How do you take a short fairy tale warning kids not to talk to strangers and stretch it into a feature film? In Red Riding Hood‘s case, not very successfully.      All the classic elements are in there: the girl, the red cloak, the woods, the grandmother – and of course, the wolf. Yet this time the wolf is a werewolf who terrorizes a small medieval village, nestled deep in the woods, and the girl, Valerie (Amanda Seyfried) is considerably older. In fact, …
review by . March 10, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Twilight without Vampires
RED RIDING HOOD   Written by David Johnson   Directed by Catherine Hardwicke   Starring Amanda Seyfried, Shiloh Fernandes, Max Irons, Gary Oldman and Julie Christie       Filmed in British Columbia, RED RIDING HOOD opens on stunning aerial shots gliding through grand mountains, surrounded by thousands of fir trees, pristine lakes and feathery cloud formations.  The shots distinctly reminded me of another supernatural “thriller” …
review by . March 11, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
'Red Riding Hood' 'Two Jews On Film' Mr. Wolf Comes To Visit. (Video)
   'Red Riding Hood' is directed by Catherine Hardwicke (Twilight Part One)  The film stars Amanda Seyfried as Valerie, aka Red Riding Hood.       Once upon a long time ago in a desolate mountain village. somewhere in England, lives Valerie, a beautiful girl with big red lips and a peaches and cream complexion.  Valerie spends her days roaming around the majestic snow covered forests surrounding the place she calls home.  She isn't looking …
Quick Tip by . April 15, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Im really glad i didnt pay to see this but what was i to expect after the horror that was twilight! The idea behins this movie was great, and the commercial looked good but i was let down big time. This movie gets so boring through the middle part that i almost turned it off, but i guess it wasnt a total loss because the somewhat suprising ending was almost worth the wait. Look for it in a few months in a bargin bin near you!
About the reviewer
Chris Pandolfi ()
Ranked #5
Growing up a shy kid in a quiet suburb of Los Angeles, Chris Pandolfi knows all about the imagination. Pretend games were always the most fun for him, especially on the school playground; he and his … more
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