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Red Riding Hood

March 13, 2011
Red Riding Hood

Coming from the makers of Twilight, I don’t think anyone is expecting much from Red Riding Hood. And even so, I’m feeling disappointed. It’s not even an ironically-entertaining complete train wreck.

Obviously, this is a retelling of the Perrault-Grimm folktale. But instead of a little girl, we have the nubile Valerie (Amanda Seyfried). She lives in the small alpine village of Daggerhorn, which has been plagued for two generations by the attacks of a werewolf. The wolf, they say, lives in the nearby woods, which seem composed of a sort of tree that has giant thorn-like spikes instead of branches. They’re very menacing, of course.

Valerie is also caught up in something of a love triangle. One leg is Peter (Shiloh Fernandez) — a fauxhauk-sporting woodsman who works with her fater and who she’s had a crush on since she was a child — and the other is Henry (Max Irons) — the rich son of the village blacksmith to whom her parents (Virginia Madsen and Billy Burke) have promised her. Since the action takes place in the dead of winter — with snow constantly on the ground and regularly falling from the sky — naturally both of them wear shirts open down to the sternum, showing off vast expanses of hairless chest. Life truly is cold and hard for the eye-candy.

Anyhow, the village has been able to keep the werewolf satisfied for the last twenty years by putting out livestock for it to easily take every full moon, but now the wolf takes a human life. This time it’s Valerie’s older sister, Lucy. And so the village is in an uproar. The priest sends word to summon Father Solomon (Gary Oldman), a famed witch and werewolf hunter who is referred to as “His Eminence” — indicating cardinality — and yet has two young daughters from his dead wife, so he can’t have been a priest for very long. Clearly coherence isn’t exactly this film’s strong suit. The rest of the village’s men — led by Michael Hogan basically recapping his role as Saul Tigh from Battlestar Galactica — get drunk and decide to go hunt the wolf themselves.

They succeed in finding and killing a wolf, though they lose Henry’s father in the process. However, when Father Solomon shows up with his menacing moorish guards, he assures them that the wolf would have reverted to human form. He goes on to explain that this week is the “Blood Moon” — the one time every thirteen years when the werewolf’s bite transmits the curse and creates a new werewolf. Still, they commence with a celebration with dancing more resembling a fertility rite, and with music that sounds like a cross between the Polyphonic Spree and Rasputina. None of it feels at all period. But, of course, it’s not meant to be accurate to anything at all.

And, of course, the celebration is interrupted by the real werewolf — the size of a pony and black as the ace of spaces. After tearing like hell itself through the village, scattering everyone, we find that Valerie can hear its thoughts, and that there is some bond between the two. But still: who, exactly, is the wolf? If you still care at all by this point, you already know the answer.

After all this talk of what’s not the point or intention of the movie, what actually is the point? It’s surely not the acting, which is either far overdone or completely nonexistent. It’s not the script, which takes clichées to a whole new level. It’s not fidelity to the source material, which is treated more as a checklist to perfunctorily get through. Really, just as with Twilight, the point is to be a half-baked sexual fantasy for escapist teenage girls, and many far past their teenage years. Any doubt is erased by Seyfried’s voiceovers, which read like the diary entries of many an oh-so-tortured adolescent soul.

From the very outset of production, Red Riding Hood knows how to pander to this demographic, and I’m certain that those who go will eat it up happily. But just because it’s appealing doesn’t mean it’s good for you, and we can only hope that audiences restrain themselves from one more serving of empty cinematic calories.

Worth It: no.
Bechdel Test: fail.

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