Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
Valerie, the damsel in Red Riding Hood, isn’t as clingy and sickly in love as Bella Swan in Twilight. She’s actually a feisty, unintimidated chick who stabs her Edward Cullen-brooding beau, Peter, in one scene. But if she doesn’t remind you of that said moping teen, well then, I’m a Big Bad Wolf’s uncle. With that said, anything that is pseudo-Twilight, leaves me bored.
As played by Letters To Juliet’s Amanda Seyfried (oh my, what big eyes she has), Valerie is sensually pale and virginal, right up there facing down Twilight’s Kristen Stewart for Most Forlornly Pallid Face Ever. Oh, you just can’t shake off that Twilight comparison in this adulti-fied, supposedly sexed-up reboot of a fairy tale (sorry, guys, there’s a roll in the hay, but things are still pretty PG).
I mean, Red Riding Hood is directed, after all, by Catherine Hardwicke who helmed the first Twilight film. Just as you can’t shake off how a languid, little village-based yarn has been transformed into a hurried, anyhow-throw-in Wolfman horror flick which feels as uninvolving and as cold as the snow fogging the background. Basically, you go downhill here from who-she-loves romance to who’s-the-bloody-wolf suspense.
The beast, you see, dwells among the villagers in a mysteriously concealed human form on his nights off without a full moon. Now, on a primary level, you’d know, as Hardwicke clearly does, that today’s stories about young love hinge mostly on somebody, usually the guy, curtailing a rabid inner-monster within – you know, vampire, werewolf, maybe a misunderstood pervert.
“Come with me,” the creature implores Valerie telepathically, showing an unhealthy interest only in her.
At a rip-off level, however, there’s in Red Riding Hood as in Twilight, the following similarities.
Valerie narrates the story as a forbidden-love deal, just like Bella. There are two hunky dudes squabbling for her fair hand in the remote hamlet of Daggerhorn up on a frigid mountain. Woodcutter Peter (Shiloh Fernandez) is the bad boy she desires with her longing looks of take-me-now.
“I can eat you up,” he declares, pinning her passionately against the wall and setting off hysterical alarm bells that maybe even he could be the deadly animal. Ironmonger Henry (Max Irons, son of Jeremy Irons) is the boring nice guy she’s unwillingly betrothed too. He’s safe and dependable as Team Jacob to Peter’s Team Edward.
There’s, of course, the wolf. Not the folktale version of a furball disguised as a grandmother in medieval pyjamas (check out the original children’s tale of the pivotal role Grandma plays). But a ferocious, super-fast killer beast straight out of Movie Monster Land. In the original age-old tale, the little girl in a red cape is warned not to talk to strangers, personified by a canine looking to swallow her.
Over here, circa our heady, fractured times, a burgeoning, sexually-curious babe in a fashionably nutty red cloak is whirled about in a noisy melodrama where people are trying to smoke out the creature.
I’m not kidding about the smoke-out.
There’s a freaky torture device in the shape of a metal elephant which functions as a giant oven to extract Guantanamo Bay-class confessions. It comes courtesy of the only good thing in the proceedings – Gary Oldman as an unhinged, self-righteous werewolf hunter popping out of Planet Kookoo. “Under the blood moon (when the full moon turns heinously reddish), a man bitten is a man cursed,” he decrees before sticking his sword into a poor, just-bitten underling.
The man’s in a totally different picture of his own, an interloper dispensing dictator wisdom and vengeful lust in this mishmash spin on sexual temptation. Director Hardwicke must have been in many minds over this. She knows that Oldman’s old-man exertions of crazy would thump any young kids’ exhortations of lovey-dovey.
Even she must have been bored by her allusions to Twilight.
And I’ll say this again – me too.