Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Werewolf?
With her scarlet cloak trailing behind her like a stream of blood flowing on snow, a beautiful teenager wanders through the forest and over the hills in Red Riding Hood, a horror version of the legendary fairy tale. Parents, please note that this movie is not for children. For example, the traditional wolf character is now a werewolf who tears off body parts with ease and terrifies an entire village.
As we all know, a werewolf takes human form until his/her beastly transformation, so the big mystery here involves finding out which villager is the culprit. Although Red Riding Hood does a good job keeping us guessing by presenting a number of suspects, the rest of the film ends up being a showy and ludicrous tale designed to capitalize on the popularity of Twilight among today’s teen viewers.
As in Twilight, two hunky guys are enamored of our heroine. And no wonder! Valerie (Amanda Seyfried) is the prettiest girl in Daggerhorn. And, despite her delicate appearance, she’s fearless -- even when it comes to facing down a werewolf. Valerie wants to marry brooding woodcutter Peter (Shiloh Fernandez), but her parents (Virginia Madsen and Billy Burke) have betrothed her to wealthy blacksmith Henry (Max Irons) because they believe he’s a better catch. Could one of these suitors be the werewolf? Perhaps, but both of them lack the impressive screen charisma displayed by Taylor Lautner and Robert Pattinson in Twilight.
Another werewolf suspect is Father Auguste (Lukas Haas). Still, he has summoned the ruthless Brother Solomon (Gary Oldman) to help stop the beast, so that seems unlikely. But, remember, no one residing in Daggerhorn can be eliminated at this point. Oldman practically chews up all the scenery as the flashy Solomon. His circus parade-type entry into Daggerhorn -- complete with an elephant torture chamber -- emerges as the film’s highlight to me. Too bad it verges on the comical, which takes away from the movie’s intended horrific atmosphere.
On the plus side, under the direction of Catherine Hardwicke, who also helmed the first Twilight offering, Red Riding Hood boasts an interesting visual style designed to take us back to the Dark Ages. The house where Valerie’s grandmother (Julie Christie) lives is especially eye-catching and even projects an old-fashioned fairy-tale feeling. I also admire the symbolic use of Valerie’s vivid red cloak and the “blood moon cycle” shots, which suggest the importance of full-blown feminine power.
My husband’s review of Red Riding Hood? “It’s a Lifetime flick set in Medieval times,” he insists. He could be right.
(Released by Warner Bros. Pictures and rated “PG-13” for violence and creature terror, and some sensuality.)
For more information about Red Riding Hood, go to the Internet Movie Data Base or Rotten Tomatoes website.