Yet another classic fairy tale given a dark and twisted adaptation? Why not? That was my initial reaction when I first saw the trailer for this film. It looked classy, slick and just oozed with style. That is, until Twilight director Catherine Hardwicke’s name popped up, and all the wonder and amazement was instantly forgotten. Twilight was an abysmal film which could easily be attributed to Hardwicke’s insipid direction and lifeless screenplay. Could she redeem herself with this creative spin on the Little Red Riding Hood tale?
Red Riding Hood tells the story of a little medieval village (Daggenhorn) which lives in fear of a werewolf (yup! a werewolf!). For a long time, this nefarious beast hasn’t killed a human being until now when a young woman is found dead, presumably killed by this werewolf. This event leaves the village in total chaos. The young woman’s sister, Valerie (Amanda Seyfried), her father (Billy Burke) mother (Virginia Madsen) and her grandmother (Julie Christie) are all thrown into disarray trying to make sense of everything. Things get complicated with the arrival of a werewolf hunter Father Solomon (Gary Oldman) who throws the villagers into turmoil after revealing that anybody could be the werewolf. Suddenly everyone is a suspect.
The premise is indeed interesting, and fairly original. But unfortunately this film just doesn’t work. This great opportunity is totally squandered by Hardwicke and company it’s hard to make sense of how such a great premise could turn out so bad it’s almost unwatchable. And how? The screenplay is totally devoid of emotion whatsoever despite the overabundance of romance which proved to be too contrived and ridiculous. The story is an exhausting whoddunit exercise that puts everyone in the list of suspects. Red herrings are also aplenty here and it proves to be frustrating as the wolf simply makes them their next meal, killing characters en masse it’s practically an excuse for lazy script writing. Nearly everyone is miscast except for Seyfried who proves to be the only redeeming actress in this runt of an ensemble cast. She practically lords over them, even those more experienced than her. As for the rest, the acting is terrible with blandly delivered lines, overacting, and emotionless faces. The musical score is a mess and doesn’t help the movie in the slightest. The worst offender of them all? Hardwicke’s inconsistent, messy, and uninspired direction. It simply brings the whole movie down.
How could this film be watchable at all? Well, there is in fact a redeeming element here, and it is Mandy Walker’s enchanting and lush cinematography. It caught my eye in the trailers and certainly didn’t disappoint in the final cut. The striking colors with lush reds and deep blacks with an amber cast give this film a unique and moody atmosphere. For someone who has trashed nearly every aspect of this film, the cinematography had me impressed and talking, which makes this film all the more disappointing since all that is just wasted opportunity.
Red Riding Hood has an interesting premise. There certainly are good ideas here. I would even go so far as to call it fresh, however the execution is so lazy, imprecise, and contrived that this is easily one of the worst films I’ve seen this year. Had it not been for the cinematography, I’d have dropped this 20 minutes into the film. This is going to be a hard film to recommend. If you want an interesting spin on a classic fairy tale with stylish visuals, then this movie is for you, just don’t expect a lot. If you want a solidly made film to make your time worthwhile and enjoyable, then stay away from this film. For those who want to watch striking visuals without regard for other aspects of filmmaking then this might well be worth a rental and you could just mute the whole thing and play some appropriate music. Red Riding Hood proves Hardwicke is a director who hasn’t yet reached maturity. It wouldn’t surprise me if this film makes it to the Razzies this year.