Preface: The Movie Microscope is a movie review with loftier intentions. The author of this article is fully aware that he and the readers of this website are not the target audience for this film. The author of this article thinks the target audience for this film is a bunch of boneheads.
Let’s chat about a gigantic pile of shit, shall we?
Red Riding Hood mystifies me on so many levels. It almost feels like a big joke. A spoof not only of genre films and the teen-centric manifestations therein but also of us a culture on this day and date. Boiled down to the essence, this is a remake of a fairy tale given the high pitch horror spin with every marketing radio box checked in. It’s exactly where we are right now. Literary classics with vampires and zombies interspersed are huge successes and if a new intellectual property does reach the masses it’s typically the result of a four corner packaging effort to maximize revenue. Fittingly Catherine Hardwicke is the director. She’s the tip of the spear which pierced our sides with Twilight. Red Riding Hood is aiming straight for the heart of the Twilight crowd. Unfortunately it’s not a wooden stake. Just a film ripe with bad decisions and no understanding of why horror works.
You know the story of Little Red Riding Hood. She’s the little girl who talks to the wolf on the way to her Grandmother’s house, divulges all sorts of information that allows the wolf to sneak ahead and eat the old woman, and the vacant dunce who needs a Q&A session with the creature to realize her relative has been replaced with a lupine impostor. That’s the sign of a shitty relationship. Can’t even tell their own flesh and blood from a cross-dressing beast of the forest. In the best tellings of the story the little bitch gets eaten, because shame on her. Natural selection. Sometimes wolves win. Because wolves are cunning and little girls and grandmothers are sometimes dumber than cake.
In this incarnation of the story the titular crimson garment is mostly irrelevant. Valerie (the wide-eyed Amanda Seyfried) is a free spirit who as a child massacred rabbits with her best friend Peter (talent vacuum Shiloh Fernandez) and now enjoys his meaty offerings despite the will of her parents (the ludicrous pairing of Billy Burke and Virginia Madsen). He’s a roguish woodcutter [slang] and deemed unworthy. I agree, but for reasons involving his face and his usage of it. Valerie is set to marry the wealthy Henry (Max Irons, who looks like a stretched-out Daniel Radcliffe) and she’s not happy about it. She should have been more concerned that Billy Burke was partially responsible for raising her.
Adding to all this relationship strife is a werewolf who hates the town.
For generations this dumb village has been at the mercy of a feral forest force whose moonlight escapades finally hit Valerie close to home when her sister is annihilated at the outset of the film. Tension mounts. People bicker. The local priest (Lukas Haas, of course Lucas Haas. Who else would it be?) opens a support ticket with his superiors and they send Gary Oldman. Well they send his character Solomon but they pretty much send Gary Oldman. This is not the nuanced Gary Oldman. This is Gary Oldman in full-on ham mode, spouting ridiculous dialogue, and losing his shit because back in the day not only was his wife killed because of the werewolf but because she WAS the werewolf! As is the case in many stories, he carries one of her body parts around with him as a visual aid. He also makes a big point in the film about vanquishing the beast so his children can be safe. We see his children once early on in the film and the remarkable thing about that is that he is indifferent to them and almost immediately casts them aside to say Big Things to the villagers. Literally, his children could have been wolfeaten immediately and their concerned father probably wouldn’t even know until Christmas. Rounding out the story and cast is the Grandmother. Such a pivotal character in the fairy tale. A woman who exists simply as a destination and then a meal. Here she’s a somewhat mysterious woman (played to the chagrin of the Universe by actual legend Julie Christie) who goes out of her way to be creepy when the plot dictates it and absolutely useless when it doesn’t. A drinking game could be made on how many times the film tries to make her seem evil. Hint: She isn’t. And she dies. Offscreen, go fuck yourself.
Attractive teens, conflict, angst, and the occult. Such is the recipe that has launched a million blogs. And go fuck yourself.
Red Riding Hood is a period film. It takes place in a time where men who cut trees are low class and blacksmiths are the upper crust. Thankfully times have changed, because fuck a blacksmith. It takes place in a time where a community offers animal sacrifices and bizarre signage to appease an oppressive supernatural force that hunts them by the full moon rather than contacting their local congressman. It takes place in an era where a woman’s love takes a back seat to whom her father deems appropriate for her to marry rather than today where it’s determined by Facebook couth. It takes place in a time where the regular men are haggard and disheveled and the two attractive young leading men have perfectly moussed, coiffed, and salon-styled hair.
That’s actually where I first began wondering if this was The Village II: The Teenage Years. There’s got to be cutting-room floor footage of these young men being dosed and dragged to Santa Monica for appointments at Aveda and then returned to the village just as they emerge from the haze. It’d explain an awful lot. It also feeds the notion that this whole project is a big elaborate joke. A “fuck you” to molecules. It’s so self aware and overt in its look (the soft focus on the boys in this movie brings back uncomfortable Jeepers Creepers II memories), so heavily geared towards swooning teens who are kept buoyant by goth lit, and so arch in how it tells its story- it simply has to be a ruse. If so, kudos. I guess. It’s still an abomination.
Oh yeah, and at some point she puts on a red riding hood. Whoop-de-asshole.
The special effects are An American Werewolf in Paris bad, the way every single character is red herring’d as the potential werewolf is insulting, and the ridiculous words actors [and Shiloh Fernandez] are given to say all lead towards a conclusion that Red Riding Hood is a gigantic sad time for any audience member worth their oxygen. In October of 2009 in the Movie of the Day for the horrible Deadgirl I remarked about Shiloh Fernandez that “This Shiloh dude is such an empty vessel it’s a miracle he’s not in the Twilight movies.” Well, now he’s come full circle. This might as well be a Twilight extended universe story. And a screaming whirlwind of dogshit. God help Little Bo Peep if Summit Entertainment gets greedy again.
This movie is worse than being hit in the neck with saucepans.
Out of a Possible 5 Stars
Method of Destruction:
Strap this film to a rocket filled with the writing of Anton LaVay and rusted batteries and launch it directly into Stephanie Meyer’s cervix.