Friday, 25 March 2011

Red Riding Hood

Raw meat...

The small village of Daggerhorn is an isolated one and for good reason: for 20 years it has been subject to attack from a werewolf during every full moon period. The village has a pact with the werewolf as they offer it live animals in hope that none of their people are harmed. This appears to change one day when the sister of Valerie (Amanda Seyfried) is killed by the beast. Coupled with issues of love and her future, Valerie is caught between two potential suitors and a frenzy hunt for the wolf.

Adapting the tale of Little Red Riding Hood was always going to be an interesting undertaking, but the result is a mixed bag. The narrative obviously expands past the scope of the original tale in order to create a cohesive context in which the story can unfold. The main problem with the story is the apparent lack of depth. Many possible themes arise including issues of sexuality, feminism and identity, but these go largely unexplored and mean little by the time the credits roll. The action that is presented is merely to mask a romance story which is pretty predictable by nature: the question is not who Valerie will end up with but rather when it will happen. It does not help that characters fall into the stock variety, such as Father Solomon (Gary Oldman) who ends up being quite cruel with his methods of helping the village. Characters also go underdeveloped: besides the small arc involving infidelity between two families, characters just seem to exist for the sake of it. Take into account that decisions that appear so obvious for characters are ignored just to build tension, then it is no wonder that the films length begins to feel artificially made. Add in come clich├ęs and a mystery which resolves itself out of nowhere, and you have a narrative that is both lacking in cohesion and quality.

The range of actors is by no means impressive but it is definitely both intriguing and manageable. The younger cast are sadly quite wooden most of the time and considering they are the ones around which the love triangle revolves, the chemistry is just lacking. The love between Valerie, Peter (Shiloh Fernandez) and Henry (Max Irons) never rises above its Twilight roots. Seyfried can be given some credit since she does convey a larger set of emotions than everyone else in the cast. Sadly, the older cast do not exactly fair much better, but it is unfortunate that it is up to Oldman to lend acting experience to the film, and he definitely has presence in his scenes.

If there is a saving grace it is the overall atmosphere of the film. The opening scenery is testament to a film that is trying to create an overarching environment in which to position the village in isolation, but also to present the mystical feeling of a fairy tale. While not the most striking scenery, the woods look straight out of Twilight for example, the effects give a fantasy element that very much cements the film in its fairy tale origins. The CGI for the Werewolf is lacking but it is a minor issue in a film in which director Catherine Hardwiche is able to mesh both darkness with the odd scenes of gorgeous scenery fairly well.

Language features minimally throughout the film and nudity is nonexistent. Sex never really features though sensuality is present at times. Violence is quite apparent and besides a quick shot of the removal of a body part, violence is neither gory nor that bloody.

The angst of teenage love in dark fantasy is definitely a hot topic for cinema, but Red Riding Hood does not expand the idea in any meaningful way. The scenery is great, Gary Oldman is great, and Seyfried is adequate, but that is about all the film does right. Acting is generally weak and the story offers mild entertainment worth. With a superior script, Red Riding Hood could have offered a delightful retelling of its original material because the potential is there, but as it stands the film will not have many filmmakers green with envy.


Screen date: 25 March 2011
Release date: 18 March 2011