Tuesday, 15 March 2011


Warner Bros. Films
Now Showing

Unlike the majority of my film reviewing brethren, on Twitter and elsewhere, I didn't hate on the dog's breakfast that was The Wolfman (2010). Granted it was no masterpiece, nor was it memorable as far as horror films or remakes go, but I did find it to be a guilty pleasure; unlike my usual self, I delighted in the gore and scares. And in terms of werewolf films, you could do a lot worse. Case in point: Red Riding Hood.

A revision of the famous fairy tale which saw the eponymously attired young lass encounter a wolf while on a visit to grandma's house, Red Riding Hood, with its love triangle and latent sexuality, is very much aimed at an older audience. And supersizing the wolf to a werewolf must have seemed like the perfect way for Warner Bros. to take a bite out of the teen girl demographic, hot and heavy as they are for the vampire and werewolf action of the (inexplicably) successful Twilight series.

That may explain why Catherine Hardwicke, who directed the first Twilight film, was brought in to helm the project. The studio (and Hardwicke) must have been hoping lightening would strike twice. But lightening (or any positive energy for that matter) is nowhere to be found here, though you may very will be struck dumb by the ludicrous goings on in this woodland village.

A werewolf has been kept at bay by the villagers for two generations by regular sacrifices of livestock. But with the Blood moon in orbit the beast has decided to up the ante, killing a young lass and threatening to savage the village until Valerie (Amanda Seyfried), sister of the slain and titular wearer of the red hood, agrees to come away with it.

Did I mention this is revealed when the werewolf 'speaks' to Valerie? Where others only here growls, she hears words; kind of like how Harry Potter speaks in Parsel tongue, only nowhere near as believable. Valerie also recognises that the creature possesses human eyes and, if the visiting Father Solomon (Gary Oldman), expert in the supernatural, is to be believed, lives amongst the villagers by day. But as who?

In an effort to bolster suspense, Hardwicke throws around red herrings as if caught in a food fight at a sushi bar. Is the werewolf Peter (Shiloh Fernandez), her longtime sweetheart? Her fiance, Henry (Max Irons, son of Jeremy), whom she does not love? The perpetually apologetic young priest (Lukas Haas)? Or is it her seemingly stoned grandma, played with a twinkle in her eye by Julie Christie (and if so, ick factor 100!)?

Or could it even be Father Solomon? After all, the werewolf bears a strong resemblance to Sirius Black in canine form. Indeed, the werewolf is more like a big black dog with anger management issues rather than some killer beast. Give me Benicio Del Toro's Wolfman any day; at least he had bite.

You may be surprised (or not) to discover just who is the lupine lech but you won't much care. For as much effort has gone into making the film look good – and it does, in a surreal, fairly tale kind of way – the screenplay by David Johnson undermines Hardwicke and her cast, which also includes Virginia Madsen and Billy Burke as Valerie's parents, from beginning to end.

You'll laugh – and you're not supposed to – more times than you jump in fright, and that's no good thing. Irregardless of whom the werewolf is, one thing's never in doubt: Red Riding Hood is a dog of a film.

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