Red Riding Hood: Lost in the Woods
As many of you might have guessed – watching Red Riding Hood this weekend was a low-point in my long career of
movie watching. Thank the maker (yes, that is a Dragon Age reference) we had some free movie passes.
THE WOLFMAN COMETH….
It’s difficult to understand how a movie with an exciting concept (adapting a classic fairy tale), a fantastic cast, visually appealing set designs and costumes – as well as the majority of girldom on it’s side – it’s difficult to understand how this movie could so utterly fail and turn itself into an unintentional comedy in the process.
And why – WHY – are werewolves perpetually the red-headed stepchild of Hollywood movie monsters? From their second-class citizen status in the Underworld trilogy, to the dismal The Wolfman released last year, to this teen angsty catastrophic failure. Werewolves in Hollywood cannot catch a break. What’s so sexy about vampires, I wonder? What makes wolves so much less appealing?
Personally, I would take the dude who only turns into a savage beast one night a month to the guy who wants to drain the blood from my body every day. So when it comes to why Werewolves cannot seem to gain the popularity of their less hairy horror cousins…I am genuinely puzzled.
This conversation has been proposed before on this blog. I don’t want to tread again on old ground, but it makes me pause and wonder why the last great werewolf movie (An American Werewolf in London) was filmed 30 frickin’ years ago. And you could realistically argue that the last great Vampire movie was…30 Days of Night? I dunno, maybe my thesis is incorrect and vampires are getting just as shitty a treatment as werewolves in pop culture these days.
I will go so far as to argue that werewolves are always the…underdog…in a love triangle. And in the last three years no werewolf is getting the tail they chase unless it’s their own.
Red Riding Hood just puts another nail in that coffin.
I think horror-genre dramas and romances are falling out of popularity, which might ultimately be for the best. Nerds cannot handle sharing their obsessions with the masses for too long.
OK – what was so terrible about this movie?
The acting was bizarrely grating. Many of the actors and actresses I’ve seen before and thought highly of – especially the lead actress Amanda Seyfried (inexplicably named “Valerie”), Billy Burke who plays her father and freaking Michael Hogan (Colonel Tigh from BSG) but they just had zero believability and credibility in this film. When that many exceptional actors are ringing false, that has something to do with the content of the film and directing.
Which is difficult to admit, as a woman, because I want so badly for Catherine Hardwicke to make a successful Hollywood film with a strong female lead. As one of half a dozen female directors in Hollywoodland who get any recognition from the general public and Academy, a lot is riding on the success of her films. OK, success and coherence and general viewability. All of which are lacking in Red Riding Hood because there was no substance to the story, no tension, no building of a coherent narrative or mood from one scene to the next. That is the job of a director – to keep hold of the overall vision of the film and make sure everything is serving that purpose.
The characters were difficult to connect with because the pacing was all over the place and their motives were entirely unclear. The lead actress was insipid and cowardly – the plot twists with the relationships utterly unsurprising or lacking any emotional power because they either arrived too early or too late within the film, and there was very little built around them to create even an illusion of depth.
The lead female character should have been strong and engaging with a mind of her own.
Instead she is caught between two lovers, unable to make a decision to save the lives of the people around her, and is given many opportunities to prove herself and fails at recognizing or applying herself to any of them.
The two male love interests were decent actors gifted with crap dialogue and difficult motivations – though I was pleasantly surprised that the typically “attractive yet evil rich white guy with power” ended up being nice and caring. That’s a +1 to successful avoidance of a movie trope. Max Irons, son of Jeremy Irons and Sinead Cusack, was quite sympathetic and smoldering in his role. I predict good things for him. Shiloh Fernandez was less so – the rebellion and romance rang pretty hollow, but it’s hard to say how much of that was his acting or just the shitty writing and direction. Overall not a strong vehicle for a first time actor.
Gary Oldman was a delight to watch on screen, but this movie certainly isn’t moving to the top of his resume pile. Though, he did convince me he could easily play the part of President Snow, so I’m hoping he gets tapped for the role. He has always mingled his characters with a touch of evil, in some of his most well-known films he played Dracula, the evil Zorg (The Fifth Element), Sid Vicious and the somewhat ambiguous Sirius Black in the Harry Potter trilogy. He and Jason Isaacs should thumb wrestle for the role.
The film was strangely lop-sided because pieces of it worked well and others didn’t.
As mentioned above – the costumes, colors and scenes of the forest area around the village were gorgeous. Hardwicke clearly has an eye for the attractive and developing rich imagery – as is evidenced in the majority of her career working on Production Design. But it’s come to my attention that perhaps Production Design and Directing don’t go hand in hand. It’s one thing to work with making the imagery of a movie come together – it’s another to tell a rich and coherent story while coaxing out believable performances.
There was that one scene…
The dance/celebration orgy after the first wolf is killed was particularly engaging to watch – fire dancers, people dressed in animal skins, and drums pounding out a sensual rhythm. The combination of this sequence and the oddball soundtrack meshed together well, and it was at this point that I hoped for a turn around to this film. The sexual tension between all the characters was building (finally, some kind of forward progression was being achieved), the heathen and mystical elements in the film were exposed – exciting new directions for this mythology were being shaped. It’s going to get good from here on out, right?
Not so much. And that soundtrack? While I personally dug it, the instruments and vaguely electronic strumming just didn’t fit with the time period depicted in the village. Also, some pieces of the set design were just so distracting! The characters are running around in the snow half the time wearing short sleeves, and in some scenes – the snow itself looked like white sand. That’s a huge rookie mistake and disappointing to witness in a film that no doubt had a decent budget. Enough of a budget to make snow look like snow and not sand.
I’m not going to suggest that anyone take time out of their busy schedule to watch this heap.
I did, so you don’t have to. The only good thing that came from this film, for me is the unleashing of Irons onto the movie scene, an introduction to the band Fever Ray who wrote a couple of wicked good songs for the flick AND this eerie cover of the Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs song Lil’ Red Riding Hood sung by Seyfried herself. The lady has some delightful singing chops!
Bechdel Test: Red Riding Hood features two female characters and DOES NOT PASS the women test, PASSES the men test and features more than two minority characters who do not have names so it DOES NOT PASS the race test.