MRR Movie Review: Red Riding Hood

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A dark fantasy film loosely based on the popular folk tale, "Red Riding Hood" stars Amanda Seyfried, Virginia Madsen, Gary Oldman, Max Irons and Shiloh Fernandez. Set in a medieval village supposedly haunted by a werewolf, a young girl named Valerie (Seyfried) is torn between an orphaned woodcutter and the wealthy boy whom her parents have arranged for her to marry.
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Movie Review: "Red Riding Hood"

-- Rating: PG-13 (violence, terror, and some sensuality)
Length: 100 minutes
Release Date: March 11, 2011
Directed by: Catherine Hardwicke
Genre: Fantasy/Thriller

"Red Riding Hood" is a 2011 fantasy film loosely based on the French folktale of the same name. The director of this film is Catherine Hardwicke, the producer is Leonardo DiCaprio, and the screenwriter is David Leslie Johnson. Amanda Seyfried stars in the title role. "Red Riding Hood" was filmed on location in Vancouver during the summer of 2010.

Valerie (Amanda Seyfried) is a young woman who lives with her parents Cesaire (Billy Burke) and Suzette (Virginia Madsen) along with her sister Lucie (Alexandria Maillot). The family lives in the town of Daggerhorn, which is located near a forest inhabited by a werewolf. The villagers and the werewolf have established a truce under which the werewolf leaves the villagers alone in exchange for cattle.

Valerie loves the woodcutter Peter (Shiloh Fernandez), but her parents have betrothed her to Henry Lazar (Max Irons). Valerie elopes with Peter but returns to Daggerhorn when she learns that the werewolf has broken its truce by killing Lucie. The local priest, Father August (Lukas Haas), attempts to recruit Father Solomon (Gary Oldman) to hunt the werewolf, but the villagers decide to attack the werewolf first.

The villagers split into groups, with one group consisting of Henry, his brother Adrian (Michael Shanks), and Peter. Peter becomes separated from Peter and Henry just before a wolf kills Adrian. Another group of men then corner the wolf and kill it. Suzette begins mourning Adrian when she learns of his death, allowing Valerie to deduce that Suzette once loved Adrian. Valerie also determines that Adrian is Lucie's father.

Father Solomon arrives at Daggerhorn the next day and tells the villagers that they killed an ordinary wolf because it did not return to human form when it died. He also tells them that they are currently in the Blood Moon Week, during which anyone bitten by a werewolf will become one. Father Solomon orders his men to investigate the villagers to determine which one is the werewolf.

The werewolf attacks that night, cornering Valerie and Roxanne (Shauna Kain). It communicates with Valerie telepathically, telling her that he will destroy the village unless Valerie leaves. The werewolf then leaves the village to await Valerie's decision.

Hardwicke also directed "Twilight," the first film in the "Twilight" saga. Viewers who have seen both films will be familiar with Hardwicke's use of mythology to surround a sexually charged romantic thriller. Hardwicke portrays "Red Riding Hood" as a subversion of the classic fairy tale to be a children's fable for young adults. The use of sexual subtext in a fairy tale will be familiar to mature audience members.

The first part of the film is primarily a romantic fantasy with a classic love triangle. The portrayal of Valerie as a deceptively innocent maiden torn between two men is also reminiscent of the heroine in "Twilight." Peter is a rough-looking character who looks like he could be a werewolf while Henry has a more submissive personality and a talent for poetry. This theme is the primary commercial appeal of this film.

As soon as Father Solomon informs the villagers that the werewolf is one of them, "Red Riding Hood" transitions to a supernatural whodunit film. Hardwicke and screenwriter Johnson expend considerable effort in leading the audience to believe that any villager could be the werewolf by giving them wolf-like features.

The revelation of the werewolf may surprise the audience as the steps leading up to this point in the film do not clearly point to the werewolf's identity. The strongest theme in the second part of the film is that you can always outsmart your enemies if you are sufficiently clever and sophisticated. However, outsmarting one's enemy doesn't always help if it turns out to be someone who is trusted or even loved.

Seyfried does a fine job of keeping the viewer's pulse pounding as Valerie looks for the werewolf in every dark corner of the village. The most surprising performance in this film is by Gary Oldman, who dominates his scenes in a manner similar to that of Nicolas Cage. Julies Christie also uses her acting talents to good effect in a small role as Valerie's grandmother. The set design for the village is a work of art, as shown by the classic log cabins in the snow.

"Red Riding Hood" will have the greatest appeal for audience members who are already fans of the "Twilight" saga.

Rating: 3 out of 5