So with all of the horrific reimaginings and re-re-re-re-re-adaptations slopping all over the filmscape of Whoreywood, it was quite naturally only a matter of slime before the tale of the little girl in the red cape and cowl vs The Big Bad Wolf evolved onto the big screen in one form or another. And it has... this time as a Werewolf thriller!
Yes, a Gothic Horror retelling of the famous fable rife with sexuality, Lycanthropy, mystery and murder! Sound original? Well, to a degree it is, yes. However, 2011's Red Riding Hood is most assuredly not the first time the tale of "Little Red Cap" has been re-envisioned as a Werewolf thriller. 1984's The Company of Wolves took a similar path to Fairy Terror. The very idea of connecting the fabled "Talking Wolf" with a Lycanthrope isn't even much of a stretch.
So how is the movie? Well, better than one might think but this is still a product of Hollywood from its casting to its overall mood and feel (it's startling enough to make people jump, but safe enough to keep that commercial PG-13 Rating) to the very behind-the-camera crew. Yes, Yes, folks, so that the posters and ads can gleefully declare the slogan "From the Director of Twilight", the folding canvass chair was given to Catherine Hardwicke and the cast is filled with at least three generations of "The Beautiful People" in the hopes of appealing to as many subsets of moviegoers as humanly (or werewolfly) possible.
Observe... Red Riding Hood herself is represented by the surprisingly beautiful Valerie, as portrayed by the appropriately surprisingly beautiful Amanda Seyfried (from Mama Mia!). She's grown up in a charming medieval village in some indeterminate part of Europe (where every one of the locals has an American Accent). She's been in love since she was a wee-lil' tyke with a poor, orphaned woodcutter (who can still somehow afford plenty of Hair Gel, in spite of the fact that it hasn't been invented yet) named Peter (Shiloh Fernandez). In spite of (or because of) this, her good-looking parents Cesaire and Suzette (Billy Burke and Virginia Madsen, respectively) have arranged for her to marry Henry (Max Irons)! See, he's just about as handsome and well hair-gelled as Peter, but might make a bit more Coin, being the son of the town's Blacksmith Adrien Lazar (played by Michael Shanks, without his Stargate SG-1 glasses).
Even the local priest, Father Auguste, is played by wide-eyed Lukas Haas, who may not be a hair-gel model but certainly doesn't fit the standard woodcut etching of your typical rural medieval priest either, huh? One more for you? Little Red Riding Valerie's Grandma-ma is played by none other than Julie Christie, who still looks almost as good as Madsen or even Seyfried, in spite of the fact that she was born around 20 years prior to the next oldest recognizable star.
So we've got multiple generations of attractive actors, including famous dramatic thespians and award winners and even a little cult-cred with some Sci-Fi names on the list... speaking of which, The Reeve is even played by Michael Hogan from Battlestar Galactica!
Sound like the kind of Medieval Village you'd like to visit? Pretty cool, huh? Well, not when they're being terrorized for decades by a Werewolf... a Werewolf who has just started killing people again! That's a bitch, man! The situation, I mean. We don't know if the wolf is a bitch or not... because we've got no clue who the hell the Wolf is when in Human form.
Hence the appearance of yet another big star, Gary Oldman who plays Father Solomon (surprisingly with his own, original English accent). The guy has plenty of experience with Werewolf hunting and plenty of help with his multi-continental crew of armed guards.
And so the murder mystery begins. And, to be fair, I didn't figure out who the Big Bad Wolf really was until "The Big Reveal". Many viewers might find this to be incredibly obvious, however Hardwicke and writer David Johnson instead follow that standard bait-and-switch, rinse-and-repeat method of distracting the audience from the culprit by making it "incredibly obvious" that just about everyone is the real Wolf! It almost becomes humorous how many clues and little red herring hoods are presented to the audience plainly and clearly and then replayed and rehashed for repeat audience edification. In truth when the final killer is really revealed things do make sense, but then again, Hardwicke could have gone "Clue" on this story and filmed multiple endings... just about any of the listed suspects could potentially have made sense as the murderer.
I'll give you a hint: The villain is Good Looking.
Sigh. Perhaps this still manages to fit with the surreal and mysterious dreaminess that this movie fills each frame with. The problem is that this all feels somewhat artificial at every turn. The clean, picturesque medieval town filled with pretty citizens and perfect costuming isn't all there is to it. Most every scene looks like it was filmed on a soundstage, perfectly envisioned and skillfully executed to look impossibly good and plastically unrealistic.
Still, this was evident even from the previews and the point is that when Red Riding Hood gets it right, it does work pretty well. As unrealistic as it is (this is, after all, a fairy tale), the film manages to be a good bit of fun in many areas. It's sexy at times, interesting in its original elements and even occasionally surprising. In short, this is, in no small part, exactly what you might expect from a film like this with its cast and director and the surreal (to the point of unreal) set design and imagery. On the other hand, it's also better than I expected, a bit small on suspense but satisfying in its own strange, Wolfen way! Further, when we finally get into the true core of the fable's story itself, it's rather cool to watch the events unfold in their retro-modern way.
Yes, it could be a good deal better, but, sure as grape soda is purple, it isn't as bad as it could be. No that may not be the highest praise, but that's how things go in the current world of pop horror. Let me not be too harsh on Red Riding Hood. I actually liked it and had a good time watching it. Good enough to give it Three Stars out of Five.... which is at least good enough to keep me from regretting buying that ticket. Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got a few things to look into. You see, last Full Moon my little dog, Jack, turned into a DUDE and really messed this place up something fierce. I'm about to explain to his ass that he either fixes this place up next full moon or by the next one after that he's the one getting fixed, man! See you in the Bloody Next Full Reel! I'll bring the Hair Gel!!!
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