Loosely based on the Grimm Brothers fairy tale, Red Riding Hood is in fact a muddled fantasy thriller from Twilight director Catherine Hardwicke, and it tries desperately to channel the filmmaker’s last hit. The story involves a teenage girl torn between two good-looking young men who desire her. There’s also the issue of a werewolf that’s wreaking havoc in town.
Set in a picturesque village, presumably in medieval times, Red Riding Hood is even less convincing than Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight stories. Amanda Seyfried is Valerie, a young girl in love with a poor woodcutter named Peter (played by Shiloh Fernandez), but whose parents have arranged her marriage to the local blacksmith Henry (played by Max Irons) who is better off.
Like the inhabitants of that community in M Night Shyamalan’s The Village, the locals here have established an uneasy truce with a fearsome nemesis, in this case a werewolf. But when the animal shatters this truce by killing Valerie’s older sister, they bring in seasoned werewolf hunter Father Solomon (played by Gary Oldman) to rid the town of the beast. It doesn’t take long for him to arrive at the conclusion that one of the villagers, in fact, is the dreaded werewolf.
Over-styled to a fault, Red Riding Hood with its moody camerawork and Broadway production-like set-design is easy on the eye, but it gives the film a ‘fake’, manufactured feel that makes it hard to take seriously enough. Missing the visceral thrills required for it work as an effective horror, the film also squanders the potential of such ripe themes as paranoia and the mistrust of friends and neighbors.
Neither does it help that the dialogue is totally banal, and the performances uniformly wooden. Julie Christie as Valerie’s kooky grandmother is the pick of the piece; that scene in which she responds to Valerie’s question about her big teeth with the classic line: “All the better to eat you with”, is so cheesy you’ll want to laugh.
I’m going with a generous two out of five for Red Riding Hood. Silly beyond belief, go for it if you have nothing better to do!