Sunday, 4 June 2017

Red Riding Hood

I decided to rewatch 2011's reviled Red Riding Hood and give it another chance. After all, despite her endearing popularity, Red rarely gets to have onscreen treatment in which she is the leading lady.

Red Riding Hood reminds me of three other movies- 1984's The Company of Wolves, 2001's Brotherhood of the Wolf, and 2008's Twilight. All for obvious reasons, The Company of Wolves is an adaptation of the Red Riding Hood fairytale based on Angela Carter's short stories in The Bloody Chamber and it features the heroine trying to get over the loss of her sister. Brotherhood of the Wolf features a medieval setting in which innocent folk are plagued by a mysterious beast that has a human foe at its centre and mixes religion with its terror factor, and Twilight, based on the novel by Stephenie Meyer features a love triangle, and a supernatural element as well as director Catherine Hardwicke and actor Billy Burke. The Company of Wolves and Brotherhood of the Wolf also play with that wonderful imagery of snow, wolves and horror.

2011's Red Riding Hood stars Amanda Seyfried as the heroine Valerie, Shiloh Fernandez as her love interest Peter, Max Irons as his rival Henry, Virgina Madsen as Valerie's mother Suzette, Billy Burke as Valerie's father Cesaire, Julie Christie as Grandmother (Cesaire's nameless mother) and Gary Oldman as the villainous Father Solomon.

This film's problem is it doesn't know what it wants to be and limits itself by trying and failing to capture the Twilight fanbase with a tired plot concerning a love triangle peppered with the supernatural. Fearing the loss of a younger audience it shied away from any rear element of horror or gore and the attack scenes by the werewolf were tame and ruined by poor CGI.

It tries to offer a plot of whodunit or rather who is it used in 1974's The Beast Must Die which gave a much more interesting format of the guess who the werewolf is plot by borrowing from Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None. 2011's Red Riding Hood is essentially the same, Father Solomon comes to the village, summoned by a desperate Father Auguste, and informs them that the werewolf has to be one of them. Father Solomon then seals off the village for good measure ensuring that no one can get out.

The interest of the werewolf lies with Valerie as it communicates with her and only her narrowing the potential suspects from a small list down even further. The voice sounds male but Valerie goes so far as to suspect her own Grandmother as well as the too obvious suspects of Henry and Peter. Hell Valerie even stabs Peter at one point when he follows her into the woods she's that afraid of them, a wound which he recovers from quite quickly.

The revelation is that the werewolf is in fact Valerie's father Cesaire who spoke to Valerie because he intended to turn her and leave the village with her. He had intended to turn her sister first but realised when she could not understand him in wolf form that she couldn't be his daughter. He was right she was in fact Henry's half-sister and died oblivious to this and in love with Henry (ugh).

Cons- The love triangle is unnecessary, the leads all lack development, there was next to no development with any of the supporting cast, not enough suspects, not enough horror, terrible CGI, Father Solomon was pointless and ridiculously over the top and the movie is full of cliches.

Pros- Visually the movie is a treat, the plot had potential but sadly it just never got there, Julie Christie does a good job as the Grandmother, Henry also showed potential and it is entertaining.

I like that when Henry sees Valerie with Peter he doesn't try and compete with it (i.e Jacob and Edward) he accepts it, breaks off his engagement and says he only wants Valerie to be happy and he goes so far as to help Peter help free Valerie. Frankly, to me, Henry is the better catch, he's sweet to Valerie and seems genuinely in love with her. Peter goes dancing with her friend the moment he tries to end things with her for her benefit, dances publicly and suggestively in full view of everyone, nice guy.

I liked that it was hinted that Valerie killed the white rabbit at the start of the film, not that I'm advocating killing animals for fur, definitely not, but the implication that she has a darkness in her is interesting sadly it doesn't aspire to anything. Valerie doesn't join with the wolf even after realising it's her father, she helps Peter kill him instead because she will never be like that. Hey she's alright living alone in the woods with Peter the werewolf instead.

To be honest Valerie becoming a werewolf and going to the city to hunt with her father would have been a much better ending and a lot less cliched.

I think if the movie had played this straight as a dark horror it might have won more fans. The whodunit plot is done almost to death but if done right it can still entertain. Also, make your audience care about your characters, when they're just cannon fodder for the killer it gets boring, even more so if the kills aren't interesting and it's worse when your leads are boring. We learn next to nothing about Valerie, Peter and Henry. The affair between Valerie and Henry's parents leading to their shared half-sister was a lot more interesting than the virtually non-existent triangle between Valerie, Peter and Henry.

It doesn't help that the moment the wolf starts communicating with Valerie the list of suspects drops hard. The movie tries to play it that it must be Henry or Peter and then throws Grandmother out of a late suspect. It's trying to hard to keep you from thinking it's Cesaire just to keep you from thinking it's Cesaire. Valerie jumps from suspect to suspect to the point of you thinking she can't possibly know any of these people she's meant to be so close with. It makes Valerie seem fickle, a poor judge of character, stupid and reckless and honestly when she stabs Peter it's ridiculous, how can they be soulmates after that? One thinks she stays with him out of guilt and a hatred for her village, they did try to make wolf bait out of her after all.

Even Valerie's friends seem more interesting than Valerie. Rose who secretly hates her for being too perfect and tries to seduce Peter the moment he ditches Valerie, and Roxanne who betrays Valerie to Father Solomon to save her brother Claude, killed for being a magician when he was just different, an act of treachery that Roxanne strongly regrets.

It had a lot of potential but sadly Red Riding Hood ended up being a miss.

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