Riddle of Fire Review

A modern fairy tale that follows three young children on an adventure, Riddle of Fire perfectly encapsulates what it’s like to be a kid.

Last Updated on March 26, 2024

Riddle of Fire review

PLOT: Three mischievous children embark on a woodland odyssey when their mother sends them on an errand.

REVIEW: Magical realism is a tough challenge for even the most skilled of filmmakers. There’s a fine line to walk in order to anchor anything fantastical to a layer of reality. Writer/Director Weston Razooli makes the choice to set the film in modern day, while avoiding most modern technology. Even the leads have a timelessness to them that could put this film in any decade going back a century. All of these elements add up to make Riddle of Fire one of the more interesting independent features of the year.

Taking place in the mountains of Wyoming, Riddle of Fire follows three children Hazel, Alice, and Jodie as they go on an adventure. They’re on a mission to get the ingredients for a blueberry pie, to make their ailing mother feel better. On their journey, they come across a witch and a fairy, and nearly everything feels…off. Take Jodie for example, who has a speech impediment so everything he says is subtitled. It adds to the quirkiness because 99% of the time, Jodie is perfectly audible. Though, maybe I just have an ear for strange accents.

Charlie Stover, Skyler Peters, Phoebe Ferro, and Lorelei Olivia Mote in Riddle of Fire (2024).

Lio Tipton is the biggest name in the cast but despite her top billing, she has limited screentime as Anna-Freya. Charles Halford leaves more of an impact as John Redrye, Tipton’s frustrated lackey. His frustration with the kids and insistence on independence only for him to keep things status quo was quite humorous. Despite taking place in Wyoming, the film was shot in Utah and it is absolutely gorgeous. They fully take advantage of the beautiful scenery. Shooting in 16mm film allows for texture that just wouldn’t be possible digitally. It adds to the ethereal look of the world. I also really enjoyed the soundtrack, which works as a sort of dark techno-fantasy soundtrack. Works perfectly as the soundtrack of youth.

As much as I wanted to love the film, it doesn’t entirely come together. Given the entire cast is comprised of young thespians, the acting is a bit iffy. There are moments that really took me out of the story. Conversely, there are times when the children are great, and nail their parts. There’s a wonderful moment where Hazel discusses his marriage to Alice, while Jodie listens on. It perfectly encapsulates being a kid, as he states the absurd with such a level of confidence that only a child can do.

Charlie Stover, Phoebe Ferro, and Skyler Peters in Riddle of Fire (2024).

The pacing is a little on the slow side, with the film really coming to a dead stop once they reach the mountains. But it manages to still be interesting regardless. Whether it’s the soundtrack, visuals, or even sound design, there’s a lot to analyze within a single scene. I applaud the entire crew for their dedication to make such a unique film. From its young cast to shooting on 16mm, some of these challenges would have been insurmountable for lesser talented filmmakers. But they manage the impossible and create a magical world that’s still firmly planted in reality.

I can’t see Riddle of Fire being for everyone in the same way that Napoleon Dynamite wasn’t. But those that can get past the acting and embrace the youthful charm, will be rewarded with an experience unlike any other. This doesn’t speak down to the children and instead tells the story at their level. I struggle to think of a better representation of what it’s like to adventure as a kid.


About the Author

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Tyler Nichols is a horror fanatic who resides in Michigan and is always on the hunt for the next great film. When not scouring the internet for movie news, he is usually off watching something dark, writing nonsensical musings, or playing in some fantastical video game world. While horror takes up most of his time, he still makes time for films of all types, with a certain affinity for the strange and unusual. He’s also an expert on all things Comic Book Cinema. In addition to reviews and interviews here on JoBlo.com, Tyler also helps with JoBlo Horror Originals where he’s constantly trying to convince viewers to give lesser-known horror films a chance.