Friday, 10 June 2011

Red Riding Hood- Mainstream and Cult

So the past couple of posts haven't been about Little Red Riding Hood or Alice in Wonderland, although my blog is a general blog and I just use it to rant and review really so that's not so bad, but I thought I would go back to at least one of my two favourite topics for this post.

I've just finished reading Catherine Orenstein's Little Red Riding Hood Uncloaked and in my fashion offered up a review. It is a good read for any Red Riding Hood fan though it can digress and grasp at straws looking for links that just don't exist, overanalysing things and going into too much depth with certain topics and not enough with others. It's a hard topic to write about with so many interpretations and so many adaptations to cover including movies, books, short stories, poems, adverts, cartoons and the vague referencing that others might ignore and Catherine Orenstein has certainly done a good job of working with the material.

Sadly whilst I was expecting lots about Angela Carter's short stories and Tanith Lee's Wolfland there were only a couple of mentionings of either and a little about the movie Angela Carter's works inspired- The Company of Wolves. As a major fan I was naturally expecting pages of ranting about these, discussions about interpretations, inspirations and so forth but I guess there was little to go on with the short stories and she felt she covered the main topics the movie offers. One interesting note in there was that Angela Carter disliked the ending of The Company of Wolves and preferred the ending of her same named short story where Red sleeps soundly between the paws of the wolf.

Sadder still is that obviously there is no mentionings of the recent surge of Red Riding Hood fiction as this novel was published in 2003, 8 years ago and therefore before the likes of Sisters Red, Low Red Moon and Amanda Seyfried's latest movie or indeed the nod to it in Trick R Treat via Anna Paquin's character. With this sudden surge of popularity for fairytales it would be good to see another up-to-date novel published, of course as I've said I imagined analysing such a topic is indeed difficult given the numerous times Red Riding Hood has cropped up in the world.

Speaking of Company of Wolves I really feel this film offers such a lot of wonderful imagery, pity it's so hard to find pictures of it. I often wonder would it have been better with a bigger budget and today's technology but honestly I feel Amanda Seyfried's Red Riding Hood movie proves that this simply would not be the case. Company of Wolves is amazing because it is a cult movie and it was never set out to be a big Hollywood blockbuster and therefore was not restrained by trying to fit into the norm, it could as dark and weird and twisted as it wanted without risking alienation of a mainstream audience and it did whilst Amanda's movie was very much held back probably by fears of narrowing the audience with too much violence or sexuality. Thus it became a very tame movie that was centred around whodunnit or rather who is it whilst with Company of Wolves you often know who the wolves are, the mystery of the film is whether Rosaleen will fall victim to them or not and will she be a willing victim.

It's a movie about growing up and discovering yourself and the dangers of the adult world, it's a struggle between letting go of your youth whilst maintaining your innocence. It's gothic, fantastical and mesmerising, really it's my favourite kind of movie, the rare kind that aren't so black and white but offer us more to think about it with numerous metaphors.

Whilst the latest Red Riding Hood movie is good enough there's no depth to it to compared to Company of Wolves, it's straightforward, a village is plagued by a werewolf with a strange interest in the central heroine Valerie who already has the problem of being caught between two men- Henry, her would be fiance who her mother approves of, and Peter, her secret lover, a woodsman who her mother feels is too poor to give her a future. So we follow Valerie whilst trying to figure out who the werewolf is as the body count grows and the added threat of Gary Oldman's Father Solomon comes to shake things up, and we watch as Valerie tries to pick who she wants to be with. It's fun but predictable (although I didn't know who the werewolf was until the end really) and it does offer up some of the original fairytale with the visit to grandmother's house, the quoting of the 'big eyes' etc and of course the trademark red hooded cloak.

It could have been up there with Company of Wolves, Snow White: A Tale of Terror or Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow (it was similar to it in some ways) but it just did not go the distance and really fell short and even the mainstream audience it was tamely aimed at do not seem to have enjoyed it much (obviously some people did, but overall it's been given poor ratings).

Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow is a great example of how you can do the gothic weirdness, the gore and horror and come up with a pretty successful movie. Tim Burton is never afraid to go out there with the weirdness and generally it works out for him (he's my favourite director naturally) so I don't really think Red Riding Hood really had to shy away from that.

Bright Lights Film Journal :: The Company of Wolves- a really great review and summary of Company of Wolves

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