TMP Reviews: Red Riding Hood

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The Set Up

The isolated, picturesque and archaic storybook mountain village of Daggerhorn has a problem. They’ve managed to keep a ravening wolf at bay for years with offerings of their finest livestock as sacrifice. With the arrival of the rare red blood moon, the curse of the wolf is more dangerous than ever, and the death of a young village maiden at the claws and jaws of the wolf means it has declared that the deal is off. The attacks continue and bodies begin to pile up, and with the arrival of a renowned werewolf slayer, suddenly a medieval mystery is afoot as everyone wonders just who could be the big bad wolf. Amidst all the chaos, there is a love triangle that is made even more complicated by the presence of both the slayer and the werewolf, and you know someone’s going to get their big heart broken, my dear.

Cast: Amanda Seyfried, Gary Oldman, Shiloh Fernandez, Billy Burke

Directed by: Catherine Hardwicke

Written by: David Leslie Johnson

 

Red Riding Hood (2011) – Amanda Seyfried is a wide eyed Valerie in Red Riding Hood.

 

The Good

The juxtaposition between scary and sinister, beautiful and magical was temptingly appealing. The iconic vivid red of the venerable hood was striking, eliciting a response both visceral and primal. The re-imagined antediluvian fairy tale has elements of symbolism and historical undertones that are reminiscent of infamous witch trials and religious fanaticism, while at the same time displays aspects of pagan abandon and belief in sacrifice and superstition.

It was immensely gratifying when the film paid homage to the legendary fairy story; allusions to Peter and the Wolf, and The Wolf and Seven Little Kids was clever and amusing to recognize. I was very pleased with the modern physical appearance of the wolf, and it should also be quite satisfying to audiences.

 

Red Riding Hood (2011) – This isn’t the fairy tale of your childhood.

The heated intensity of youthful longing enmeshed in a love triangle was made even more poignant by the fact that Valerie and Peter are childhood sweethearts who have a powerful bond with each other, which makes the noble Henry the odd man out. This is quite the predicament, because Henry’s nature makes one sympathize with the fact that his fate includes unrequited love.

 

Red Riding Hood (2011) – The vibrant red of the infamous cloak is unforgettable.

 

Casting was genius. Shiloh Fernandez as Peter will make the ladies swoon and he was a perfect choice to play Amanda Seyfried’s forbidden love. Amanda Seyfried as Valerie was beautiful as always, all wide eyed innocence one minute and sensuous seductress the next. She gave one the feeling that she was open to being led astray by the big bad wolf, as long as it was for the good of the village, of course. Gary Oldman as the unwavering and single minded Father Solomon was brilliant as only Gary Oldman can be. Julie Christie as Valerie’s mysterious grandmother was as effective as ever, Virginia Madsen showcased her fine grasp of dramatic nuances, and Billy Burke as Valerie’s dad was in fine form.

The music had sexy rhythms that will bring out the heathen in anyone and definitely added to and brought out the dark atmosphere of the film, hitting the scenes in all the right places and amping up the sex appeal.

The Bad

Even though the images were beautiful, it took me a while to immerse myself in the setting, and it reminded me more of an artificial village too precise and perfect to lend the air of an authentic medieval European village. The acting at times was somewhat 2D despite the best of thespian efforts, and the exploits of the ravening wolf were moments of lukewarm fright at best. The lack of blood compared to the seeming horror of the attacks was inconsistent, but we have the PG-13 rating to thank for that, and even the catching of a glimpse of a couple severed hands didn’t serve to up the scare factor. Is this movie Twilight-esque? Perhaps, but this is a kind of story that seems to be very popular these days, and Catherine Hardwicke is very comfortable in adolescent angst-ville.

 

Red Riding Hood (2011) – Valerie is on her way to granny’s house.

 

The Scorecard

Acting: Amanda Seyfried is wonderful as Red Riding Hood. Shiloh Fernandez was brooding perfection and Gary Oldman was superb.

Direction: Catherine Hardwicke’s post Twilight follow up finally let her tell a story where the wolf takes center stage.

Writing: Interesting and entertaining and a great new take on an old tale with some cool werewolf lore for supernatural thrills.

Sound: A perfect indie/emo compilation and rhythmic score that heightens the moody and sultry atmosphere of the film.

Visuals: Gorgeous, vivid and picturesque.

Overall

A very adult fairy tale. Catherine Hardwicke is doing what she does best, giving us a heady dose of intoxicating desire and intense yearning. Red Riding Hood is a very voluptuous film, pulsing with an underlying sexuality that was so heated while at the same time restrained, and still left much to the imagination. It revamps a well known and well loved fable that had a wealth of deeper meaning, and adds an element of the supernatural that gives new meaning to the phrase beware the wolf. Red Riding Hood is pure escapism and guilty pleasure, an enchanted visit to the dark side of the moon.

I give it a 7 out of 10.

Red Riding Hood (2011) – A 700 year old tale re-imagined.