Monday, November 21, 2011

Red Riding Hood (2011)

Red Riding Hood is, basically, The Little Red Riding Hood adapted for the Twilight generation. It's not a bad movie, but it's not a terribly good movie either. As a fantasy, it's not very convincing. As a drama, it's not very believable. It's too smooth to be very scary, although it works decently as a thriller. But the CG is distractingly obvious - horror requires grit and substance.

The film works best as a mystery - indeed, I was compelled to continue watching largely to find out who turns out to be the wolf. I don't know that it's a good mystery, because though there were many legitimate candidates for wolfhood (Red Riding Hood not excluded, with the woodsman ironically being the most visibly suggestive candidate), I wasn't invested enough in the fantasy world to care about following all the clues and making note of the 'rules' (assuming they're consistent), so I don't know whether it's actually intelligent or just lazy. But it is a mystery that wants solving, even if the paranoid atmosphere recalls much better films that have gone the "killer among us" route.

However, in spite of how it turns out, I'd be just as willing to believe that Father Solomon was running a racket, tricking villages into submission by introducing werewolves that only he knows how to effectively fight. I guess that shows you how unconvincing the characters were, that I'd just as soon believe them to be something else, rather than what the script apparently intends. I find it amusing in a not necessarily constructive manner that this is not the first film in which Gary Oldman has played a character who fights werewolves (harking back to Sirius Black in The Prisoner of Azkaban).

If not effective, it is a pretty film, helped in no small part by the luscious features of Amanda Seyfried as not-so-little Red herself. Although she is gorgeous, and has a more childlike demeanor than most women her age, I couldn't help noticing that she's not as young as her character is portrayed. Though she's not supposed to be a child, as she is in the prologue, when the narration jumps ten years into the future, it looks more like twenty years have passed. And I have a hard time believing that in this [admittedly make-believe] pre-modern era, one's parents would wait until a girl is twenty-five to arrange her marriage, and that, being as beautiful as she evidently is, noone else would have made arrangements of their own long before that time.

Now, I have no problem with an 'adult' telling of Red Riding Hood (actually, the original version is said to have been pretty gruesome already), but I've seen it done better before; and if you're going to make it 'adult', you might as well make it gritty. Red Riding Hood is sensual and romantic, but it's not sexy. It's mysterious and thrilling, but it's not really frightening. And most unfortunate of all, it tends to drag in the way that you feel like somebody had the idea to put their own spin on the story, but it's something that would have been better accomplished in a shorter format (or else with a better script) - here, the less-than-satisfying filling brings down those elements of the story that might actually be clever and/or original.

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