Red Riding Hood (2011)
Directed by Catherine Hardwicke
Once upon a time in an unreasonably pointy forest was an equally pointy village plagued by a bloodthirsty werewolf. For over 20 years this dark menace had turned the medieval storybook-ish populace into a superstitious and fearful lot known to break out in horrifically choreographed group dances of celebration, somewhat akin to the “Golden Years” scene in A Knight's Tale but looking more like drunken frat kids trying to do the Dougie. I’ll give the really white folks a moment to look that one up...
Moving on. The death of a young woman pushes the townsfolk to their breaking point when salvation arrives in the form of Father Solomon (Oldman) and his merry band of ninja stormtroopers who quickly seize the town, schooling them on the true nature of their wolfy nemesis and turning the whole ordeal into a were/witch hunt. Sounds interesting? Not to worry, I can ruin that for you.
Amidst all this inquisitional action is a touching love story between Valerie (Seyfried), the doe-eyed girl in the red cloak, and Peter (Fernandez), the angsty woodsman AND the creator of ye old hair gel. Unfortunately, Valerie is promised to be married off to Henry (Irons), son of the town blacksmith and by default richer than the dude that cuts down trees. BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE!! The werewolf is someone in the village. Someone in love with Valerie. To complicate things further, it is the three nights of the BLOOD MOOOOON, during which anyone bitten by the wolf will become a wolf themselves (if being mauled to death weren’t threat enough.)
There’s a lot going on here.
If you haven’t guessed yet, this is not a horror movie. At best Red Riding Hood is a piece of dark fantasy tightly packed into the center of a full-blown teen soap opera, made slightly more interesting when played against the sort of Nancy Drew level mystery. When picking at this film as fantasy, you’ll note the woodland landscape, sometimes so green and mossy as to only exist on a movie set. Couple this with a cast of recognizable faces from TV and indie films, and you’ll feel as if you’ve settled in for a Syfy Saturday night original. The oversized werewolf, lacking in any menace and spilling barely a drop of blood, will erase those thoughts, however, as any Syfy schlockfest will at least spray the front row with gallons of blood as if at a small scale Gwar concert, the band replaced by sharktopythons and squidodiles. RRH seems content to embrace its PG13 sensibilities, occasionally tossing ineffectual jump scares into the mix but still focusing primarily on the love story. The werewolf itself is a mere afterthought, or rather a device to propel Valerie’s adventures along.
Speaking of which, the romantic themes hit upon are instantly recognizable and so should be fully embraced by teens while groaned over by anyone who watches film often. To their credit, the cast members handle the material well, giving enjoyable performances and creating highly likable characters who interact well against the medieval backdrop, even though they don’t act or sound as if they are in that time period. This likability saves the film even when the scenes are laughable, as is the case at more than one point. As a murder mystery, Red Riding Hood maintains the most basic of plot lines and disregards any and all obvious pieces of actual INFORMATION delivered by its own storytellers in favor of lengthy knowing glances and remedial misdirection. Nevertheless, it did manage to baffle those watching with me, though I was confident I had it figured out halfway through and was proven right when the film reached a very anticlimactic end. As I am one of the most easily distracted people I know and, therefore, no ace detective, I’m confident most of you will crack the case early on as well.
This is a teen movie. A PG-13 teen romance that just happens to be loosely based on the Red Riding Hood fairy tale and has a gigantic killer werewolf that will scare none but screeching prepubescent girls (and some little boys). This will probably not be for most Dread Central readers but, oddly, may be more satisfying for those unhappy with the delivery of every installment of The Twilight Saga. While Red Riding Hood is obviously more simplistic, removal of the artificial weight of heavy teen hearts keeps things lighter and, thus, somewhat more enjoyable. The characters actually smile and emote when they feel something even though fear seems to elude all but the third tier actors. More importantly, they do not look like they are in agony at all times.
If you are speculating that I’ve had a hard time coming to my conclusions and a rating for the film, you are absolutely right. I can say I am unscathed, having not bled from my ears and eyes. At no time during my viewing did I want to attempt to drown myself in my soda or smother myself with my jacket. I was certainly bored more often than not, but it did not kill me. I live. In comparison, I died a little every time Dread sent me to a Twilight screening and certainly left a piece of my soul on the seat upon leaving the theater for Knowing. Should your girlfriend force you to see Red Riding Hood, I assure you, you will not die ... and that’s probably as good as it gets.
2 1/2 out of 5
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