Red Riding Hood (2011) - A Deceptive, Dark and Dangerous Fairytale

Monday, October 31, 2011

Red Riding Hood

When the first official plot synopsis was released for this big-screen movie, it did little to illustrate just what this adaptation of the classic Grimm fable would be like. It wasn’t until the promotional clips and material, and TV spots premiered that it was made clear to just what lengths Twilight director Catherine Hardwicke would take the fairy-tale.

Ever since she was a little girl, Valerie was taught the dangers of speaking with strangers and the importance of being a “good girl.” Even though she really tried, her burgeoning friendship with a boy in the woods pushed her to break the rules. Life has become mundane for Valerie (Amanda Seyfried) some ten years later. The small village she resides in is anything but satisfying considering everyone knows everyone’s business and her parents (Virginia Madsen, Billy Burke) wish her to marry the successful and studious Henry (Max Irons). It isn’t that there is anything wrong with Henry except for Valerie's disinterest. Instead she peruses the outsider and orphaned woodcutter Peter (Shiloh Fernandez); her childhood sweetheart.

The two lovers have been secretly meeting under the protection of the woods that surrounds the village with plans to run away together, but fate has other ideas. Things are about to change when Valerie’s elder sister is killed by a mysterious wolf – a creature that villagers have held a tentative truce with by offering daily animal sacrifices… and the residents suddenly fear something they cannot see.  
I'll wait for you... - Red Riding Hood
Red Riding Hood

It doesn’t take all that astute an observation to realize this is a dark fairytale with undertones that are much more sinister than the movie touches on. Indeed, most of these are passed over either because writers chose not to explore them for fear of a limiting MPAA rating, and thus a lesser range of viewers or because they intended to leave suggestions hanging. Thinking back on the original concept, Little Red Riding Hood isn’t exactly prime children’s reading material (i.e., a wolf terrorizing a young girl on her way to visit grandmother). All this movie has done is capitalize on that sinister (aka chilling), idea and made it a little more frightening with a grown-up cast (for a grown-up audience), a love triangle and instead of a gray wolf, the villain is a werewolf. (This final nail is all about the writer's capitalizing on culture's obsession with the werewolf culture.)

Never did I think I’d have such a close connection or be even mentioning the Twilight film franchise in something I’d actually want to see, but the fact that I’ve liked Amanda in what I’ve seen of her acting and that I am a sucker for fairytales made this irresistible. Its cast is quite impressive – nearly everyone exhibits hints of mystery in their persona; it’s always up in the air as to who you should trust. The wolf's identity is concealed well, although it wasn’t for lack of making the most obvious choices targets.

Red Riding Hood
The movie starts as a beautiful charming story like any fictionalized tale might and its cinematography is gorgeous. As with everything I may “endorse,” this is not necessarily for everybody. Not everyone will find this entertaining or even worthy of its runtime and indeed, it's  "different." The entire movie may be skewed in its morals in certain examples but it isn’t because of the plot but rather that the characters have some screwy ideas – and the ending is about as unromantic as any I’ve seen. If you’re a fanatic of the Twilight series, then you’ll be likely to enjoy Catherine’s latest young adult movie. It’s a dark fairytale that somehow still manages some touching snapshots amidst the otherwise dreary tale. 

Check out my article in the special edition of Femnista in which, I share my opinions on the twisted relationship between Valerie and Peter. 
CONTNET: In attempts to make Peter jealous, Valerie suggestively dances with a female. Peter and Valerie nearly have intimate relations in a sensual scene but are interrupted; they passionately kiss, he grabs at her legs, unlaces the front of her dress and lays her down beneath him  [later scenes show  the pair, obviously naked lovemaking in the snow]. In order to ensure the safety of her brother, one village girl offers herself as barter. One woman’s past is uncovered to have become pregnant out of wedlock. The wolf is indeed a terrifying creature who kills a dozen people in the course of the film [all of which are shot with little blood and the camera cuts away just before impact; there are some implications of torture also, a girl is thought a witch]. One man collects the head of a wolf as a prize of sorts, assuming it is the werewolf. The film is rated PG13.


  1. Because I am not of the Twilight craze, or werewolfs and the like....this movie totally did not appeal to me. I am even honest enough to admit that the commercials freaked me out a bit.

    I much prefer how "Once Upon a Time" is handling my fairy tales. I can only do creepy for so long.

  2. This is sooo my kind of movie. I blame it on seven seasons of Buffy, six seasons of Supernatural, and about thirteen years of Dracula. ;)

    I loved it, even if it didn't end how I would have wished, and suffered from occasional stilted acting. It was GORGEOUS to look at, and sometimes that's good enough.

  3. wonderful review! thanks;)

  4. Ella - I am not "into" that whole scene either, but... I really like Amanda Seyfried and fairy-tales, so...

    I actually watched most of this most at, like, ten o' clock at night - and all by my shelf! ;D I don't remember it being all that scary. I am not a fan of horror or creepy movies, either, but then I like movies with hints of mystery driving them.

    Oooh! I cannot wait to check out "Once Upon a Time" - it looks like such fun! Glad to hear you like it, too, Ella - now I'll know who to ask when I want spoilers. ;D

    Charity - this is gorgeous to look at. (The camerawork and cinematography is lovely.) I'd watch this one again (and was going to prior to Femnista but didn't get around to it), but it wasn't my most favorite flick, either. Basically, yes, Red Riding Hood was quite entertaining. (Even with my "issues" about the whole Valerie/Peter/Henry thing. ;D)

    I liked the concept even if it was carried a bit too far for my tastes. The ending is my one big complaint - and honestly, I'd have rather seen Valerie alone than how it ended.

    Cubette - you're welcome. =)

  5. I want to see this although my sister told me who the werewolf was. I am easily freaked out, so I may have to watch it with somebody (I usually watch chick flicks when I am by myself, and I could only watch little snippets of Wuthering Heights because it is distressing-not scary!). I have not watched the Twilight movies althought I enjoy the books. The movies look pretty pathetic, but I am sure they could still scare me.

  6. Watched the second episode of Once upon a time last night - it gets better. I think you'll really like it!

  7. Livia - you should check this one out. It isn't my favorite movie, but I did enjoy it and could definitely see myself renting it again if nothing else. (The werewolf's identity is actually really well masked - in movies, that is surprising today.)

    As I mentioned to Ella, I don't remember this being all that "creepy," but it does have the potential to appear that way to some viewers. Some ten years ago as a young girl, I would have been totally "creeped" out by it (me and scary/mysterious movies really didn't get along back then).

    Chick flicks or rom-coms are my kind of movies - I like happy stuff not movies that are going to remind me that life is challenging. =)

    C.C. - cool! Thanks for that. I usually find that TV shows progressively get better week-to-week or even season-to-season. Most of the shows I watch are 100 times stronger than their premiere season. If I don't enjoy "Once Upon a Time," I'll be surprised. =)

  8. oh i absolutely loved this movie! amanda seyfried is my favorite actress. (go dear john lovers!)

  9. Amanda Seyfried is a great actress - I've enjoyed each of her roles. There have been a couple I've "ignored" but for the most part, she has starred in movies I've been interested in seeing.

    "Red Riding Hood" isn't my favorite with her, but it was quite entertaining. And "Dear John" is just a beautiful movie.

  10. I saw this over the summer while I was at the beach and I really liked it too! I have to say that I've seen Twilight and it is so much like it as far as camera shots and style I think. If I can remember correctly the beginning of this movie was a wide shot of the forest which was kinda dark just like in the Twilight movie. Catherine's style is definitely all over this movie.

    XOXO~ Renee

  11. Just from previews, speculation and reviews, I can guess that "Red Riding Hood" would be something similar to Catherine's work on "Twilight." I'm just not really into the whole vampire-werewolf scene, but I did quite like this movie. As a matter of fact I was going to rent it again a couple of weeks ago and never got around to it. Oh, well! Maybe some other time. =)

  12. I've been on the fence with this one.

  13. I don't blame you!

    This one is very... "different," but yet, I surprised myself by liking it even somewhat. Again, this is one I need to re-watch and haven't gotten around to it.

    One of these days I'll have to rent it again because I do think it deserves a second look. =)


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