March 26, 2023
Ithaca, NY | 42°F


Stringy elements demoralize fairy tale

A fantasy thriller full of twists, including one on a classic, “Red Riding Hood” tells the story of a young maiden who breaks all the rules but never suffers the consequences.

In the classic Brothers Grimm tale, Little Red
Riding Hood wanders through the woods, straying from the path where she encounters a wolf. In this film, Red, otherwise known as Valerie (Amanda Seyfried), is older and frequents the forest to meet with her childhood playmate Peter (Shiloh Fernandez), who she secretly loves despite an arranged marriage with the affluent Henry (Max Irons).

Aside from the dramatic love triangle, a werewolf plagues Valerie’s wood-shrouded village, promising death to every victim. Tired of living in terror, the villagers decide to hunt the wolf. Conflict ensues when a legendary werewolf hunter, Father
Solomon (Gary Oldman), discovers the creature is really a villager who remains in human form by day.

Well-known director Catherine Hardwicke, who directed “Twilight” and brought disappointment to fans of the novel with the film’s mediocre script and cast, pleasantly surprises viewers with her use of strong visuals in “Red Riding Hood.”

The use of handheld cameras does a fine job showing the perspective of the erratic werewolf. Hardwicke’s flair for unusual angles builds tension throughout the film. In one scene, the camera shoots from behind the eyeholes of a metal mask, shifting between each one to propel the audience into the frustration and drama. This tension is perfectly controlled, and the film progresses at a steady pace that leaves viewers fully engaged as the plot unfolds.

While the script contains some blatant attempts to incorporate original fairy-tale lines, like “I’ll huff and puff and blow your house down,” Hardwicke’s cinematic fable poorly meshes such iconic elements into the film. It also deviates from the tale’s original moral of filial piety and warning against talking to strangers with the absence of motherly precaution.

Little Red Riding Hood’s trademark cloak does not appear until 20 minutes into the film. Among her middle-aged gowns and modest dress, the cloak has no real significance and is treated as any ordinary garment.

While there aren’t any particularly memorable lines, all are delivered well by the cast. Seyfried does a wonderful job balancing drama, courage and naive curiosity in her role of Valerie. She completely commits to her scripted character, from bone-chilling encounters with the wolf to passionate love scenes with Peter.

However, some scenes don’t resonate with the film’s historical period. Hardwicke includes an erotic dance segment that doesn’t work for a story set in the Middle Ages. This playful dance is much better suited for a scene in a contemporary dance club rather than a conservative village celebration. The raunchy choreography diverts from the film’s plot.

“Red Riding Hood” is well made but is nothing spectacular. Hardwicke doesn’t revamp the Brothers Grimm tale but crafts a movie with borrowed elements. If viewers want strong visuals, some eye candy and a mild thriller, this film is worth seeing.

“Red Riding Hood” was written by David Johnson and directed by Catherine Hardwicke.