I want to hate Red Riding Hood in the worst way. I really do. I want to pounce on director Catherine Hardwicke’s film and pummel it with accusations of zero creativity and kick it with the judgmental boot of milking the Twilight crowd for all they’re worth, but I just can’t muster the malice to point an accusing finger, mostly because I never found myself checking my watch during the 120 minute nouveau retelling of the classic Brothers Grimm folk tale. Trust me, I’m bewildered. Never in a million years would I have predicted I’d like Red Riding Hood more than Battle: Los Angeles.
25 year-old, big-eyed beauty, Amanda Seyfried (Letters to Juliet) is the girl with the red hood in this movie. Her name is Valerie and she lives in a small, rustic, forest village – Daggerhorn, to be specific – in some nondescript country where everyone is a farmer, woodcutter or blacksmith. As for the latter, when the story opens, Valerie is betrothed to Henry (Max Irons), the son of the local blacksmith. Valerie isn’t too happy with this arrangement because she has the hots for a dark, brooding woodcutter named Peter (Shiloh Fernandez) and has plans to steal away with him as soon as her parents (Billy Burke and Virginia Madsen) aren’t looking. Of course her plans come to a screeching halt when the town’s emergency bells start clanging and Valerie’s older sister, Lucy, is found dead in the woods, the apparent victim of the local werewolf, a beast that has been stalking Daggerhorn for decades.
The townspeople collect their torches and weapons and march up the mountain to the wolf’s lair, intent on ridding the village of this menace once-and-for-all. They kill a wolf, but in the commotion, Henry’s father, the aforementioned blacksmith, is killed. After, as the villagers celebrate the death of the wolf, things really start to go all Days of Our Lives when Valerie learns that her sister Lucy is actually her half-sister, the ensuing child of a torrid love affair between her mother and, ironically, the just-embalmed town blacksmith, father of her fiancé. Oh the tangled webs we weave!
Daggerhorn’s revelry soon comes to an end when Father Solomon (Gary Oldman), a witch and werewolf hunter, comes to town with his cadre of soldiers and giant, steel elephant. He tells the townsfolk the wolf they killed isn’t the ominous creature that has been harassing the village, but just a regular old wolf. He promises to vanquish the godless, devil-loving lycan and proceeds to launch his own little mini-inquisition. With Father Solomon incessantly warning Daggerhorn residents the werewolf is one of them, the townspeople begin to turn on each other and soon it’s hard to remember what is more dangerous, suspicious, me-first villagers, or the blood-thirsty werewolf. And I haven’t even touched on Valerie’s kooky old grandmother who lives in a shoddy old cabin deep in the forest. Could she somehow figure into this whole wolf nonsense?
I wrote at the beginning of my review that I wasn’t bored in Red Riding Hood. Let me be clear: That’s not saying much. There’s a vast chasm between not falling asleep and being outright captivated by a movie. Frankly, I can’t recommend this movie and I’m not even entirely sure who the studio hopes to catch in its net. It’s a little too sensual for young teens and children, and it’s too campy and silly for older viewers. I suspect if you enjoy both the Lifetime channel and the SyFy channel, this movie might be up your alley. It gets a slight nod over the grueling Battle: Los Angeles, but not by far.