Catherine Hardwicke is clearly still on a high after the box office success of Twilight, and thus gets a nice big, juicy budget for Red Riding Hood, a dark retelling of the fairy tale we all know well.
Actually, it isn’t dark enough. The film constantly feels as if it’s been trimmed of the bloodier and the sexier moments, perhaps to avoid an MA rating (or R in the US). It felt like I should have been watching something akin to Snow White: A Tale of Terror (that blood-spattered TV movie retelling with Sigourney Weaver) than this – a washed out fantasy film with Twi-aspirations.
These aspirations can be rather embarrassing to watch, especially when you see the male love interest, Peter (Shiloh Fernandez) has been made up to look exactly like Robert Pattinson. It’s impossible not to laugh when you see his carefully quaffed hair slathered in product – not something you’d really associate with a medieval setting. In fact, it feels like the Powers That Be have poked and prodded at this production until the film becomes increasingly like that oh so popular romance franchise.
It’s a pity, because Red Riding Hood certainly shows potential. A retelling with an obvious feminist bent, there’s some sort of psychosexual undercurrent here – about male fear of female sexuality – even if it never comes to the fore. The setup’s a lot like The Village – a group of villagers live in fear, isolated in the snowy mountains somewhere. Each month, during the full moon, they put out a sacrifice for the werewolf which lives in the forest nearby (’cause all these men are afraid of that mysterious thing that happens once a month, you see.) Valerie (Amanda Seyfried) has been in love with Peter the woodcutter since she was a child, but is to be married to the much richer Henry (Max Irons). When Valerie’s sister is killed by the wolf (under a blood moon, no less), it sets in motion a series of events that will lead to the villagers turning on one another.
The story is a tad predictable, but for all its silliness, I soon acclimatised. The sets are lovely and old fashioned, and whilst they’re not aiming for realism, I did get a real feeling for the location. Amanda Seyfried really sells the role, too – her slow rise to stardom has been impressive over the years. Here, she’s blessed with the presence of Julie Christie and Gary Oldman, who both positively command the scenes in which they appear. Fernandez is pretty hopeless as Peter, but I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt and say it was because he was forced to be more Edward Cullen-like every step of the way.
The soundtrack is a winner – both the score by Alex Heffes and Brian Reitzell, and appearances by the likes of Fever Ray – but the cinema in which I viewed the film couldn’t handle the bass end of the audio spectrum at all. Since it was a brand new theatre I’m going to assume that the fault lies with the soundtrack and not the cinema.
Red Riding Hood feels like it’s been re-edited time and again. There are abrupt changes of pace and strangely timed montages that hint at deleted scenes. All in all, it feels like this would have been a stronger film, but it was toned down and reshaped in a misguided attempt to make it more mainstream. I did enjoy Hardwicke’s film, but this was only by overlooking the larger flaws and searching for the much more satisfying feminist/Freudian subtextual dichotomies within.Rating: