Red Riding Hood
Director: Catherine Hardwicke

Cast: Amanda Seyfried, Lukas Haas, Gary Oldman
Review by Brian M. Sammons

Let me start by saying that this movie wasn’t made for me. Not … one … little … bit. It was directed by the same woman who helmed the first Twilight film and that other film’s stench is all over this one. In fact, this film was obviously made to cash in on the Twilight craze and rope in some of those screaming, obsessive fangirls. As such, I guess it’s a success because it couldn’t be more Twilight-y unless it was actually called Twilight.

Granted, I’ve never been able to make it through a complete sparkly vampire movie without the aid of a RIFFTRAX comedy commentary track, so I might not be the best person to judge such things. Also, as I sated at the start, since I’m not a starry-eyed, teenage girl, I was destined to despise Twilight and all things like it. Sadly, that goes for this movie too. Now I did super-duper-dog-dare-swear try to go into this movie with as open a mind as possible, and for the most part I think I did, but I still didn’t like it. Not … one … little … bit. Well ok, maybe a wee bit, but I freely and openly admit that I’m not the target audience of this film, so keep that in mind when reading this review.

Red Riding Hood takes the (in)famous Grimm’s Fairy Tale and ladles on the spooky and the sexy, but since this film was shoehorned into he ever lucrative PG-13 pigeonhole to get at those Twilight-ers, it’s not really much of either. In fact, as far as the sexiness goes, you can practically see Red chaffing under the constraints of producers’ self-imposed PG-13 mandate. It really wanted to be far more risqué than it actually was and I do think it’s sad that it couldn’t be if that’s what it really wanted to do. Regardless, it is still a pale shadow of a movie that came out before it that did the very same thing, only much better. But since Neil Jordan’s trippy The Company Of Wolves was made way back in 1984, chances are that the vast majority of the people watching this movie wasn’t even born then. I guess that’s another great thing about making movies especially for teens; chances are good that they haven’t seen the earlier, better version of the movie you’re retreading now.

This time around “red” is a young girl named Valerie who gets in a love triangle (naturally) between a handsome and rich, but cold, nobleman and the handsome, dirty poor, but more passionate woodcutter she’s always kind of liked. Oh and if that wasn’t such a blatant smack upside the head to the Twilight fans, one of the hunky guys is fair featured and the other is dark and smoldering, or at least that is how the filmmakers try to show off both suitors as often as possible. SUBTLE!

This love story is set in unspecified European town in unspecified “fairy tale time” that has been plagued for generations by a large, killer wolf. Well after so much death the Catholic Church finally decides to take action because you see, the Big Bad Wolf is actually a werewolf and so it could be any of the townspeople. Ah, a mystery, at least that’s something this film has over the Twilight flicks. Enter the monster hunter, played by Gary Oldman, so from the start you know he’s going to be at least a little nuts. And since he represents the church you also know he’s going to be cuckoo for witch burnings. Gee, can you guess who soon becomes the target for his persecution? Well since this film has had zero surprises thus far, I’m sure you can.

As far as looks goes, it’s a win/lose situation. The cinematography is actually very good and the whole thing screams, “This is a fairy tale!” from scene one at you almost as loudly as Ridley Scott did with Legend. That’s high praise in my book. However the CGI wolf ranges at times from simply “Seriously, that’s what they went with?” to “Bwah hah hah hah hah! Oh man is that horrible.” The direction also seems competent. It is clear that Catherine Hardwicke knows how to tell a story, I just wish she would choose better stories to tell in the future.

As far as the disc brought out by Warner Bros, it’s pretty good. It’s another of their great combo packs, combining the Blu-ray, DVD, and digital copy. So no matter where or how you want to watch this film, you can. I only watched the Blu-ray of this film, but I was impressed with both the great looking High-Def picture and the well mastered sound design. The extras are none too shabby either. This version of the movie is listed as the “Alternate Cut” with a new “provocative” ending. There is also a running picture-in-picture commentary track with the director and stars, and I’m always a sucker for such things. A nice smattering of more goodies round things off, such as music videos, deleted scenes, a gag real, audition tapes, interviews and the like.

So while I thought Red Riding Hood was “meh” at best, the package as a whole gets a solid B. Perhaps even a B +. If you’re a teenage girl and a fan of the Twilight series then you’ll probably like Red, so give it a shot. If you’re neither teenage or a girl and you like Twilight … really? I mean, really, really? But hey, who am I to judge, go ahead and pick up a copy of Red Riding Hood too. Don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone.

About Brian M. Sammons

Brian M. Sammons has penned stories that have appeared in the anthologies: Arkham Tales, Horrors Beyond, Monstrous, Dead but Dreaming 2, Horror for the Holidays, Deepest, Darkest Eden and others. He has edited the books; Cthulhu Unbound 3, Undead & Unbound, Eldritch Chrome, Edge of Sundown, Steampunk Cthulhu, Dark Rites of Cthulhu, Atomic Age Cthulhu, World War Cthulhu and Flesh Like Smoke. He is also the managing editor of Dark Regions Press’ Weird Fiction line. For more about this guy that neighbors describe as “such a nice, quiet man” you can check out his infrequently updated webpage here: http://brian_sammons.webs.com/ and follow him on Twitter @BrianMSammons.

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