Review: Red Riding Hood
PLOT: In this re-imagining of “Little Red Riding Hood””, Valerie (Amanda Seyfried) is a beautiful young woman, living with her parents (Billy Burke & Virginia Madsen) in a tiny Medieval village. Her parents arrange for her to marry Henry (Max Irons), the son of the most prosperous man in town, but her heart belongs to Peter (Shiloh Fernandez) - a woodcutter. Meanwhile, her village is tormented by a local wolf, and a werewolf hunting priest (Gary Oldman) is called in to vanquish the beast.
REVIEW: If you’ve ever read any of my reviews of the TWILIGHT franchise, or anything I deem connected to that franchise in any way, you’ll know I loathe and despise that series. However, I still wanted to give RED RIDING HOOD a fair shake- mostly due to its director Catherine Hardwick. While she’s mostly known for having helmed the first TWILIGHT flick, a few years ago she was a very promising director, with films like THIRTEEN and THE LORDS OF DOGTOWN under her belt.
When I heard she was doing a sexy retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, I was actually somewhat intrigued. I love old-time Brothers Grimm fairy tales, and in the eighties, a similarly sexy spin was put on the tale, with the Neil Jordan cult-classic THE COMPANY OF WOLVES (props to Arrow for also mentioning in his review). With the right cast, and some solid production values, I figured this would be a fun film. Also, I find it hard to blame Hardwick for the lameness of the TWILIGHT franchise, as I don’t think any director can make a good film out of Stephanie Meyer’s books. Once I heard Gary Oldman was going to be in this, I was sold, and truth be told, I was actually really looking forward to seeing it.
In hindsight, that was probably pretty stupid of me, as RED RIDING HOOD was just as bad as people have been warning me it’d be over the last few months. It’s pure, pre-teen garbage. Amanda Seyfried, never my favorite actress to begin with, does an all right job as Red Riding Hood, but she’s clearly too contemporary for the role. She’s got too much of a wholesome, girl-next-door thing going on to really suit the role, but to be fair to Seyfried, she’s hardly the worst thing about the film.
That would be her love interest, played by Shiloh Fernandez. I really liked him in a Sundance entry I saw called SKATELAND, but he’s atrocious here. He’s supposed to be playing a dark and brooding guy that Seyfried is drawn to like a moth to a flame, but he spends all of his time traipsing around the village dressed like Peter Pan (never mind that it’s supposed to be winter), and throwing hissy-fits. He’s so unconvincing as a rebel, he makes Taylor Lautner look like James Dean by comparison.
By comparison, we get the charismatic Max Irons (son of Jeremy) playing the “other guy”, yet his chemistry with Seyfried is good enough that the Hardwick must have been crazy not to swap his role with Fernandez. Meanwhile, Gary Oldman does his best in small role as a crazed priest with an axe to grind against the wolf. Whenever he’s onscreen, RED RIDING HOOD comes close to feeling like a real movie- but even he can’t save it (although he does get to whip out his old Dracula accent for the role).
Another problem is that the film looks pretty damn cheap, with the production values of a DTV knockoff, rather than a real film. It was shot in Vancouver, and looks it, and the CGI snow used to make it seem like winter in quite bad. The only plus is a surprisingly good musical score by Brian Reitzell and Alex Heffes, but even the music becomes a tad ludicrous once the towns people engage in something that can only be described as a medieval puritan rave- that has the potential to turn into a good, Ken Russell style orgy, but alas THE DEVILS this is not!
Suffice to say, I loathed RED RIDING HOOD, and if the dozen or so other fairly tale “reimaginings” that are coming down the pike are as bad as this, we’re all doomed. This is good for 12-14 year old girls, but absolutely no one else. Consider yourselves warned.