“Fear makes strangers of people who would be friends.” - Shirley MacLaine
Lately, there has been a renewed wave of interest in all manner of things supernatural and fantastical and occult. I guess the trend started in earnest with the Harry Potter phenomenon, which generated a host of imitators, and then the Twilight saga that spawned another rush of vampire books and movies, the ever-popular comic superheroes that never really went away and now a flow of fairy tale reinventions that have been retold to appeal all the more to an older audience.
We saw last weekend Catherine Hardwicke’s 2011 movie “Red Riding Hood” with David Johnson guilty of writing the screenplay and starring Amanda Seyfried, Lukas Haas, Shiloh Fernandez, Max Irons and Gary Oldman. The film is a rewrite of the classic Brothers Grimm fairy tale, this version trying to cast the tale in the Twilight mould (and cash in on the fans of that saga). Red Riding Hood is not “Little”, but rather a nubile young village girl that is menaced by a werewolf and whose affections are vied for by two young village lads.
The plot becomes muddied by trying to be all things to all people and there is an attempt to catch as many slices of the market as it can, but the main audience is the young teen market with its penchant for creepy romances and neo-gothic horror tales. The reduction of the story to a corny love triangle with the (bad CGI) werewolf weaving in and out of the scenes periodically, all set in fake-looking scenery just didn’t hit the spot with us, but probably was OK for the juvenile market.
Add to that very poor acting by the young leads: Seyfried as Red Riding Hood gives a very bland performance (even though the script calls for her to be a little tinged with evil!), Fernandez and Irons as the rival lovers are banally bad (mere eye candy for young teen girls), while the older leads Billy Burke, Virginia Madsen and Michael Shanks have some really corny and trifling lines to deliver and try to do their best with what remarkably poor material they have been given. The best acting came from veteran actress Julie Christie (still looking remarkably attractive at 71 years of age) who played Red Riding Hood’s grandmother and Gary Oldman who camped it up as a sadistic priest, and who didn’t go far enough way out as the script didn’t allow it…
In case you are interested in the plot, here it is, as supplied by Warner Brothers: “Valerie (Seyfried) is a beautiful young woman torn between two men. She is in love with a brooding outsider, Peter (Fernandez), but her parents have arranged for her to marry the wealthy Henry (Irons). Unwilling to lose each other, Valerie and Peter are planning to run away together when they learn that Valerie’s older sister has been killed by the werewolf that prowls the dark forest surrounding their village. For years, the people have maintained an uneasy truce with the beast, offering the creature a monthly animal sacrifice. But under a blood red moon, the wolf has upped the stakes by taking a human life. Hungry for revenge, the people call on famed werewolf hunter, Father Solomon (Oldman), to help them kill the wolf. But Solomon’s arrival brings unintended consequences as he warns that the wolf, who takes human form by day, could be any one of them. As the death toll rises with each moon...”
Well Warner Brothers, you have not even come close to the Brothers Grimm. The retelling of this fairy tale fell well short of expectations and the climax was a bit of a fizzer. Although, the ending did set the stage for a sequel (heaven forbid!). Don’t bother with this one, watch instead the now classic 1981 “An American Werewolf in London" or for more sexual tension and repressed beastliness see the 1984 “The Company of Wolves".