Five words to describe Catherine Hardwicke's Red Riding Hood- A Homage to Jacob Fans.
So the film starts with Valerie, the protagonist talking about her childhood, when she had befriended the woodcutter kid Peter, you know the one with the black clothes and spiky hair and coolio attitude, and she killed rabbits with him because she was oh so dark and unnatural. They lived in this ridiculous-looking medieval town where a werewolf had terrorised the villagers for a long time. Then she grows up, becoming Amanda Seyfried, and all the boys in the village want her. Her parents have gotten her engaged to the wealthy blacksmith's son Henry, but Valerie only has eyes for Peter. Obviously Henry and Peter are tall, fit, chiselled-jawed, pretty boys without whom no tale (or fairytale in this case) of teenage angst is remotely possible. One day, when she's out doing her "dark" stuff with Peter, the warning sirens start ringing, and going back into the village she finds out that the previous night the werewolf had killed her sister Lucie. This ends the truce between the villagers and the werewolf and they decide to hunt it down. In this Henry's father gets killed and they come with the head of a wolf, believing it's the wearwolf. But then a fanatical priest/werewolf-killer Father Solomon comes to the village, with his band of black men and a big metal elephant. He shows them the paw of a werewolf he had once hacked, which he carried in a box with him, and how it had changed back into a human hand when removed from the wolf. Thus the head was of a common grey wolf and not of the werewolf. But the villagers do not pay any heed to his comments and plan a celebration for their victory.
What follows is the weirdest party ever. Peter is told by Valerie's mother to stay away for Valerie's happiness, and so he tries to convey this to her by dancing with some other girl...very sexily. And then Valerie starts dancing with a girl too, even more sexily (some medieval setting) and then she and Peter have a romantic tryst in the barn, which Henry sees. The party is then interrupted by the real werewolf, who attacks some of the villagers and Solomon's "trained assassins" who fail to capture it. Then Valerie and her friend Rovanne get cornered by the werewolf, whose growls can be understood by Valerie. He tells her that they will go away together and that's the only way he will not harm the other villagers. Valerie also notices that it has dark brown eyes. She tells Roxanne not to tell anyone otherwise she will be called a witch. One of Solomon's men gets bitten by the werewolf, and as it is the time of the Blood Moon, it will turn him into a werewolf. So Solomon, quite apathetically kills him, not heeding the man's brother's plees.
Roxanne's autistic brother Claude is missing, and when the villagers find him, Solomon accuses him of practicing witchcraft and locks him in the metal elephant, which apparently is a torture device. Valerie meanwhile starts suspecting everyone- Peter, her red hood-giving grandmother, her friends, the village priest, Henry etc. She had found out that her mother had had an affair with Henry's father and Lucie was infact their love child, something unknown to her father, Cesaire. The werewolf had scratched her and Valerie's grandmother was taking care of her. Henry confronts Valerie about her relationship with Peter and they break off their engagement. Roxanen goes to ask Solomon to free Claude, offering him first money then her body, and finally as a last desperate resort, the knowledge of Valerie being a witch. She gets imprisoned and Peter and Henry plan to rescue her with the help of Cesaire. Valerie's grandma suspects that Henry was the werewolf and had lured Lucie, who was infatuated with him, outside the village and killed her. She goes to tell him that, but instead Henry starts blaming her, calling her the werewolf because of her smell, the same one he had smelt the day his father was killed.
Valerie is made to wear a wolf-mask and her red hooded cloak and sit in the town square where the wolf will attack her. Instead Henry and Peter rescue her and when Henry tries to bring her into the church, for her protection, Solomon condemns her for being a witch. The werewolf then comes, and attacks more people, and bites off Solomon's hand. Valerie goes inside the holy ground and when the werewolf calls her out to go with him and save her village, she agrees. But all of the villagers make a wall between them and refuse to let Valerie sacrifice herself. The werewolf goes away as he cannot enter the holy ground. Enraged Solomon tries to harm Valerie, but one of his men, the same one with the dead brother, kills him as he had been bitten. Valerie that night has a dream in which her grandma is the wolf in the very true fairytale fashion. The next day Henry informs Valerie that he and some of the men are going after the werewolf and that Peter is still missing.
Here I leave you. Just know that the identity of the werewolf is revealed, there's another severed hand, there is mountain climbing of some sort, and Valerie and Peter filling someone with stones and throwing them in a random river, and the last shot of the film which literally made me think the line "Oh God, Sodomy."
I gave the film a 3 out of 10. 1 point was for daring to do an "edgy" take on fairytales. First of all, what the hell does edgy mean? When I think of the word, I get images of haircuts in America's Next Top Model. I have never in my life seen anything, in films or outside, which has made me go "Now that's what I call edgy!" No, never. It is true that Little Red Riding Hood was a story used to tell children not to venture alone or trust strangers and there are versions which say that Red Riding Hood was in fact raped by the woodcutter disguised as the wolf or that the wolf ate everyone etcetra. I'm sure things like that have sinister origins, but the film does not explore it properly. My point is for the daring, not the take. The take is the annoying and overused formula of 'I'm a troubled teenager and my only salvation is to fall in love with something totally supernatural' and other things like suppressed sexual desires and whatnot. The story definitely had potential and if they would have been a bit more challenging and opted for a proper dark tale, instead of filling it up with failed innuendos and half-dreamy shots of love-making, maybe it could have been saved. They even had the whole witchcraft thing, but we were subjected to the idiotic metal elephant.
The other point was for the look of the film. It is a very pretty looking film, but what is the point of it? Yes the red hooded-cloak against the snowy background looks very striking, yes the mountains and the conifers are lovely, but who the hell cares? The village looked ridiculous though. Now I generally don't do this, but I could not understand the geography of it. Or the history. What was that dance? I mean I'm pretty sure they would've burnt you at stake during those times just for dancing like that.
The last point was for the nice looking cast. Well only Max Irons, but whatever. He was the reason I watched the film after having read the scathing reviews. He's pretty. I have to give a point for that.
Now for the not so good points. Amanda Seyfried has made a career of strange sexual roles. In Mean Girls, she was the dumb slut and in Jennifer's Body, she was kind of a lesbian, then there was Chloe and um...Mamma Mia, but lets not go there. In this she's okay, but nothing apart from her looks and her red cloak stand out for me. Then there are the pretty boys- Shiloh Fernandez and Max Irons. Fernandez is our Jacob- Woo Hoo! Yeah, I don't think it's gonna get bigger for him. He'll probably end up on some teen drama show next and the rest shall follow. Now Irons's is interesting. He is Jeremy Irons's son, and even his mother is an award-winning stage actress. So logically, he should be endowed with incredible acting skills; he's already got amazing looks. So I don't know if he will walk the Robert Pattinson path or really act some great parts. This film didn't really show off any of his acting genes and I think his looks overshadowed any acting (or anything else in the film). Also the chemistry between all three of them, in any form, was forced and unnatural. Irons and Fernandez didn't even stare each other down properly.
The rest of the cast was pretty disappointing. Gary Oldman was Father Solomon. I love Oldman, but he can sometimes go so very wrong in his choice of roles. His character could have been more interesting, but it was stereoptyped, and the metal elephant got in the way too. Virginia Madsen was Valerie's mother. She was so pretty in Sideways, but in this, I just kept thinking 'Botox' everytime she had a scene. Valerie's dad was Bella's dad Charlie, or as Wikipedia says, Billy Burke...pah Charlie it is. Again, his character could have been more developed...he was boring. Charlie as Charlie is better; he has funny lines. Julie Christie was the grandmother. She seemed frigid to me. I only liked her in the dream scene, but I think computer graphics are to thank. And lastly, poor Lukas Haas. I used to be in love with him after I had watched the movie Boys. I mean it was a phase, but I really thought he'll do more. Guess not.
Catherine Hardwicke directed Red Riding Hood. She was also the director of the first Twilight film. I haven't seen any other of her films, but she does like the cold and trees and whiny female leads and boring supernatural male ones. Still I had liked Twilight. The action sequence in Red Riding Hood, like Twilight though, left much to be desired. And I already wrote about the actors and their non-acting. Or maybe I was just disturbed by the weird looking village. Oh as we are on the Twilight topic, the second one, New Moon, was a laughter riot. It was so terrible and had so many hilarious idiocies. Red Riding Hood couldn't even do that. The only time I laughed in this film was when the Peter guy called the metal elephant a 'brazen beast'.
My main problem with the film, and with most of such films, is the whole misconception of the idea of darkness within people. The werewolf calls Valerie a killer because she killed rabbits. People don't become dark or unfeminine if they kill rabbits. It's a bit weird, but whatever. Jennifer Lawrence skinned a squirrel... so what? We all have both light and dark in us, and these stories glorify the darkness, but at the same time, stick to the prudish attitude of society and PG the shit out of it. It all annoys me so much. Eating the forbidden apple and dating a sparkly vampire or a computer-generated werewolf and all the teenage angst- GET OVER YOURSELF, STUPID SILLY GIRLS!
As I said in the beginning, this film is only for the satisfaction of those Team Jacob people so that they don't riot or something. The werewolf gets all the female attention- yaaay for that! Also the film looked good. A quote from The Little Prince can describe it- "You are beautiful, but you are empty. One could not die for you." The film is beautiful but it has nothing else to offer- no story, no humour, no magic. If I was in need for a fairytale with a twist, I would watch the first two Shrek films, and the Princess-escape scene from the third one. Not this.