Red Riding Hood – Film review

My, what big sighs you have

Release date: 15 April 2011
12A * 99 minutes
Director: Catherine Hardwicke
Cast: Amanda Seyfried, Gary Oldman, Shiloh Fernandez, Max Irons, Julie Christie

After working on Twilight, with its wooded setting, angsty lurve encounters and supernatural trappings, you might think Catherine Hardwicke would be ready to move away from teen-centric action. But no, working from David Leslie Johnson’s script, she’s instead embraced the opportunity to create her own world, a medieval fantasy that blends the original, pre-Brothers Grimm legends of Red Riding Hood with a story of forbidden love that’s about as fresh as the 700-year-old fairytale. The result is something that successfully creates a foreboding tone and stylish period setting, but then uses them to bolster a flagging script that piles on the clichés even as the body count rises.

We’re introduced to Daggerhorn, a village that, despite the distinctly Carry On-sounding name, is home to a scared population being tormented by a savage werewolf. Legendary beast hunter Father Solomon (Gary Oldman) is called in, and quickly raises the terror threat level to Change Of Underwear. But as paranoia levels rise along with the body count, young Valerie (Amanda Seyfried) is more obsessed with her feelings for orphaned woodcutter Peter (Shiloh Fernandez), even as her family wants her to marry the wealthy Henry (Max Irons).

With her wide, expressive, anime eyes, Seyfried is an engaging heroine, full of vigour and spirit… which makes it all the more disappointing that the story sets her up so well and then reduces her to a stock fairytale maiden. Likewise the lads (Irons and Fernandez), who form the other two sides of this love triangle: the passion is severely lacking, leading you to wonder just why Valerie would choose either one of them. As for the wolf? It’s a disappointingly shonky CG creation, which isn’t well served once the movie switches from brief flashes to extended shots of the beast.

Oldman is good value as the Van Helsing-style Solomon, though do you wonder why he felt the need to dig up a version of his Dracula accent for a film filled with basic American twangs. Still, it perfectly sums up the muddled feeling of a gothic horror romance that never feels all that romantic nor particularly scary.

James White