Director: Catherine Hardwicke
Stars: Amanda Seyfried, Lukas Haas, Gary Oldman
Plot: As a girl falls for a local woodcutter, her village is being stalked by a deadly werewolf.
It’s high time Amanda Seyfried took on a few challenging roles in an effort to show us that she’s worth her salt among the A-List. On so many occasions she has played the same sappy, dreamy, idealistic character who lives in a sheltered world where life is a little tricky but everything eventually works out in the end. There is a little evidence that Seyfried is trying – Chloe and Jennifer’s Body proved that she can branch out – but even these films were nothing remarkable.
In Red Riding Hood Seyfried plays yet another 17-going-on-27-year-old character Valerie who lives in the village of Daggerhorn, which we are led to assume is set in medieval Germany due to the costumes and its deep forest setting (let’s just ignore the American accents though). She is torn between two men – one is childhood friend Peter (Shiloh Fernandez) who she would like to run away with and Henry (Max Irons), the son of a wealthy blacksmith to whom her parents have promised her hand in marriage. All seems idyllic enough until a werewolf apparently living nearby that had been leaving the locals alone, suddenly takes out Valerie’s sister Lucie (Alexandra Maillot). A vigilante posse is formed to kill the werewolf, but they only succeed in killing a ‘normal’ grey wolf.
This very small but important detail is pointed out by Father Solomon (Oldman), who arrives with a reputation for slaying werewolves and other ungodly creatures, having been forced to kill his wife due to the fact that she got a little too aggressive and hairy herself during full moons. He sets out on a witch-hunt of the village, pointing the finger of suspicion on anyone who prefers their own company and/or dabbles in the dark arts. Valerie then spends a lot of time running around wondering who the werewolf is, including her two suitors and her own grandmother Suzette (Virginia Madsen).
There is a very strong Twilight vibe about the whole thing, which is little wonder since director Catherine Hardwicke was at the helm of the first film in 2008. Also the apparent love triangle between Valerie, Peter and Henry with a werewolf thrown in for good measure (no vampires though), makes this all too familiar. Not only this, but Billy Burke who plays Valerie’s father Cesaire will be known to fans of the franchise as the dad of Bella in the aforementioned saga. The characters being as they are from medieval Hollywood – we’ve been here before in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves – are mostly one-dimensional and pretty dull and predictable, except for Oldman’s Solomon with which our Gary has a lot of fun without taking it too seriously.
The fairytale forest setting and the storyline both initially seem promising, but it quickly becomes evident that it’s going to be a clichéd journey all the way to the end, with an all-too-obvious reveal that you’ll spot far too early. Some critics have been a little harsh by claiming this is a complete disaster. It isn’t – Hardwicke’s direction is pretty good and the mood of the film is atmospheric, particularly at the beginning. Despite this, it’s still a thoroughly unsatisfying experience but is elevated just above awful.
There are far worse films than Red Riding Hood, but this is no less a disappointing effort at sexing-up a well-known children’s fairytale.