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Review: Red Riding Hood (2011)

Red Riding Hood (2011)

Directed by: Catherine Hardwicke

Premise: A retelling of the fairy tale, in which a werewolf stalks a village and a woman in it who wears a red cloak (Amanda Seyfried).

What Works: Director Catherine Hardwicke has a knack for striking visuals and Red Riding Hood showcases that talent with lots of dreamy cinematography.

What Doesn’t: Red Riding Hood is a film rife with problems. This is intended to be a mystery but it is mishandled; although it is not obvious from the outset who the werewolf is, it is obvious who it isn’t but the film keeps trying to shove candidates into the pool of suspects long after events of the plot have already acquitted them. Many of the supporting characters are wasted such as Gary Oldman as a priest, Michael Hogan as a village leader, and Julie Christie as the grandmother. There is no rising action to this story; none of the characters, leading or supporting, really do anything for most of the story except wait around for another wolf attack. And the reveal at the end of story is ludicrous and the conclusion resolves very little. But the biggest problem with Red Riding Hood, the problem that is most elemental and ultimately dooms the picture, is that it has no coherent conception of itself. It’s useful to compare this film to the Universal monster films of the 1930s and 40s like Frankenstein and The Wolf Man. Like Red Riding Hood, those films are set in a fairy tale land that does not really resemble any specific geographical or temporal place. Each film creates its own reality but it is especially important in a fantasy film like this that the tone and nature of that world be established early and then adhered to. The world of Red Riding Hood fails at this. The film is set in an organic, rustic, old world but too much of it screams of the contemporary from the blocking and dialogue, to the obviously digital special effects, to the artificial looking costumes. In about every scene of the film there is some element that snaps the viewer out of the diegesis of the film. As a result nothing about Red Riding Hood feels real while watching it.

Bottom Line: Red Riding Hood is a disappointment. Catherine Hardwicke is a skilled director but her talents are not enough to disguise the faults of the script or the failures of the film’s design.

Episode: #331 (March 20, 2011)