Review: Red Riding Hood

Red Riding Hood is director Catherine Hardwicke’s follow-up to the hugely successful Twilight, and stars Amanda Seyfried, Shiloh Fernandez, Max Irons, Lukas Haas, Billy Burke, Gary Oldman and Julie Christie.

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 plan 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, Valerie begins to suspect that the werewolf could be someone she loves. As panic grips the town, Valerie discovers that she has a unique connection to the beast – one that inexorably draws them together, making her both suspect and bait.

Hardwicke’s direction is limp and lifeless, undoubtedly let down by awkward staging, tacky production design and a script that doesn’t seem to know where it’s going, what era it’s in or how best to use its talent both in front of and behind the camera.

Seyfried is striking to look at and easily fulfills the sumptuous ‘big eyes’ part of the characters profile, but it never capitalises on the actress’ raw talent to demonstrate both innocence and transgression simultaneously.

The less said about the male leads, the better, as neither Fernandez nor Irons prove themselves capable of acting with conviction – they’re merely there as objects of Valerie’s affection.

The supporting crop, including Oldman, Christie, Haas and Burke, all take a decent stab at their respective characters, showing much more conviction and flair than the younger, more integral group, but they suffer from far too many cliches, hilariously cheesy dialogue, and severely limited screen time to make an overlying impression.

Red Riding Hood is quite obviously cashing in on the Twilight crowd, and does nothing to convince audiences otherwise. It’s badly acted, badly scripted and shockingly directed.

Saying that, with its glossy aesthetic, thundering emo-rock soundtrack and inclusion of Seyfried, there are obvious attempts at bringing the old Red Riding Hood fairytale into the 21st century, but sadly Hardwicke’s vision isn’t strong or clear enough for it to be any more than a disastrous attempt.

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