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Friday, March 18, 2011

Red Riding Hood

Here we have a rather lukewarm review of one of the bigger films to be released this week. Look for another roundup of the rest of this week's films coming soon.


From Artslink.co.za (Originally published 18 March 2011) 




 If I didn't already hate the Twilight craze before seeing Red Riding Hood, I certainly do now.

However much those twinkly vampires annoy the bejeezus out of me in and of themselves, I really despise the fact that their bloodless romance and even more bloodless horror has started to infect other films as well. Red Riding Hood is an especially egregious case in point.

What we have here is a perfectly enjoyable, rather camp horror movie with a likeable, plucky heroine at the centre of it that is all but ruined by shoehorning this totally pointless Twilight-style romantic triangle into the middle of it all. Sure, Red Riding Hood was never really destined to be the defining take on this timeless fairytale and, yes, the CGI werewolf transformations don't come close to packing the wallop of the physical effects of An American Werewolf in London and The Company of Wolves but it could have been a lot better than it was.

For a start, while it does entirely miss the “don't talk to strangers” message of the original story - even as it is far from the most radical of reinterpretations – the basic plot is solidly handled. It leaves most of the stuff you're familiar with for its final act, while most of the film revolves around the hunt for the werewolf that kills the title character's sister at the beginning of the movie. It's a fun, juicy murder mystery, equipped with an all-you-can-eat buffet of red herrings. It also uses the audience's knowledge of the story to its advantage as it plays some really fun tricks with the possibility of Red Riding Hood's dear old granny being the Werewolf.

It's also quite handsomely made as the delightfully Gothic atmospherics only adds to the fun, while Gary Oldman, as the sinister, werewolf-hunting clergyman, chews the scenery as only he can. Amanda Seyfried, meanwhile, proves herself, once again, to be an enormously likeable leading lady – though, admittedly, she does at times feel like a supporting player in what should be her character's story. And, of course, how could I forget Julie Christie who is just hilariously mysterious as Riding Hood's grandmother.

The film does have a few niggling problems in that the script could have been a bit tighter and far too many incidental characters were killed by the werewolf seemingly just brushing past them, but it did seem all set to be a really good bit of schlocky, pulpy horror.

And then those two pretty-boys enter the picture and fudge everything up. Essentially, Valerie – to give our Red Riding Hood her proper name – is caught up in a love triangle between the man she is to marry and the man that she loves. The two possible suitors are immensely bland and are played by actors who were clearly chosen more for their looks than for any real acting chops, a fact that becomes really obvious when you place them against established actors like Amanda Seyfried or, worse, Gary Oldman.

It's unfair to lay the blame at their feet though because the real fault clearly lies with the writer, David Johnson, or, much more likely, with the studio execs and money men behind this big studio project. This whole sub-plot clearly serves no other purpose than to bring in all the Twilight fans - but I am sure that even they will leave disappointed. While the romance – love it or hate it - lies at the very heart of the Twilight films/ books, it is something that is clearly tacked on to this story and, not only does it fall completely flat when taken on its own terms, it fatally detracts from the rest of the film and brings the entire production to a standstill every time it shows up.

Considering Hollywood's penchant for remaking every film that they can get their hands on, here's hoping that, a few years down the line, someone will come at this film with a machete and gut this perfectly cool little story of its tweeny-trappings and bring out the fun, dopey horror movie that lies beneath.

Hey, you never know, it could happen. As it is, we're just going to have to make do with this frustratingly uneven (but intermittently very enjoyable) mess. Pity.



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