Back in Red 

A familiar fairy tale retold for the Twilight demo.


Stop me if you've heard this one before: There's this movie about a teenage girl caught in a sexily chaste love triangle with one boy who might be bad for her but is super hot and another boy who's a little more honorable but just doesn't do it for her. (He might be better as a friend.) It's kind of a romantic action-horror movie, with all kinds of supernatural elements, including werewolves, and Billy Burke plays the girl's concerned father, and Catherine Hardwicke directed it.

If you thought of Twilight, you're wrong but forgiven. The correct answer is Red Riding Hood, which updates the fairy tale for a Twilight generation and their discretionary money.

Red Riding Hood is set in an isolated, imprecisely medieval European village called Daggerhorn. The village has been plagued for years by a werewolf, which takes the live animal sacrifices the villagers offer up in lieu of human victims. That changes at the beginning of the film when a young girl is killed — the sister of Valerie (Amanda Seyfried).

Valerie is in love with Peter (Shiloh Fernandez, who looks remarkably like Robert Pattinson) but is arranged to be married to Henry (Max Irons). Peter wants Valerie to run away with him. The death of Valerie's sister kind of puts a scotch on that.

The town sends for Father Solomon (Gary Oldman), a werewolf hunter/witchfinder type of warrior who arrives with all kinds of ostensibly badass accoutrements such as a silver sword blessed by the Holy See, African knights, and a metal torture device in the shape of an elephant.

Solomon believes from experience that the werewolf is one of the villagers, which makes everyone mistrust each other a little bit. The danger is particularly high, he says, because there's an astronomical blood moon — whatever that is — and a werewolf bite won't kill but will infect during this particular lunar cycle. Souls are in danger.

Solomon pulls out all the stops to destroy the beast. Valerie encounters the werewolf up-close and personal and begins to suspect some of the people nearest to her, including her grandmother (a terrific Julie Christie), Henry, and Peter. (Oh, Peter and the Wolf, just got that.)

Hardwicke made the first Twilight movie, and Red Riding Hood has the same directorial feel, with lots of swooping overhead camera shots and tingly close-ups. Seyfried escaped the HBO series Big Love just as it was violently imploding. Alas, with Red Riding Hood, she's out of the frying pan and into the fire.

Red Riding Hood is a terrible movie. It's not boring, but it's not quite awful enough to recommend for its unintentional pleasures. The nadir comes when the werewolf and Valerie communicate telepathically. Audience laughter ensues. Or maybe the worst is the pagan-ish festival set-piece that reminds one of the orgiastic rave in The Matrix Reloaded (but not enough to be bad-good).

The whole movie, though, is too frequently a study in tedium. We are expected to obsessively worry over who is the werewolf. Everyone is suspect and gets their own little red herrings. Hardwicke adds to it the occasional stalker cam that never turns out to be from the perspective of the wolf. (Sometimes it's the POV of, literally, the village idiot.)

The film climaxes with the fairy tale tropes: the red hood, a picnic basket, and a trip to grandma's house. Alas, if it had put a werewolf in a matronly nightgown and cap, Red Riding Hood would have my recommendation.

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Red Riding Hood
Rated PG-13 · 100 min. · 2011
Official Site:
Director: Catherine Hardwicke
Writer: David Johnson
Producer: Jennifer Davisson Killoran, Alex Mace and Julie Yorn
Cast: Amanda Seyfried, Gary Oldman, Billy Burke, Lukas Haas, Shiloh Fernandez, Michael Shanks, Julie Christie, Virginia Madsen, Max Irons and Darren Shahlavi


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