The studio was so clearly hoping for another Twilight, they even stole the series’original director Catherine Hardwick and under-used ´star´ Billy Burke. Unfortunately the script is so much of a jumble of styles and ingredients, it mostly gets silly.
We´re in that time-out-of-time, middle-nowhere, medieval land of fairy tale, spikey rubber trees and CGI landscapes, where broad Christianity mainly consists of authoritarian bigotry, rendition and torture. It´s a bit Scarlet Letter and a lot The Crucible. The mostly pagan villagers come straight from M Knight Shamaylan´s The Village.
Valerie (Seyfried´s Red Riding Hood), is the strong-willed teen heroine pursued by two underwear models – sorry love rivals; wood cutter Peter (Robert Pattinson-stroke-Joachin Phoenix clone leading man) and blacksmith Henry (the wonderfully named Maximilian Irons), either or both of whom could be a werewolf. Or it could be her mother (Virginia Madsen), her father (Burke), the village priest (Lucas Haas, all grown up from Witness), her Grandmother, or one of the several fashion-mag cover girls adorning the village.
Cue lots of jump-cut shock moments, a good-looking, but weightless CGI wolf, a bit of bloodless action and a drawn-out who-growled-it mystery to the final reveal. If you haven´t guessed by then.
Gary Oldman continues his re-invention as straight dramatic actor, when his role as werewolf hunter Father Solomon demands is the old half-cut and completely over-the-top Gary Oldman of Leon, Lost in Space, the Scarlet Letter (again) or even The Fifth Element.
Faithful Julie Christie puts in a scary turn as the Grandmother (slightly ropey American accent, I think she was aiming for Ketherine Hepburn).
Herein lies the problem. You want it to be a bit more like any of those movies mentioned above. Or a lot like Sleepy Hollow; even the imperfect but atmospheric, the Company of Wolves. Instead, the tone is teen-safe gloomy, without being all-out fairy tale scary. Despite, or because of, Hardwicke´s worthy efforts, it´s a bit too Stephanie Meyer to stand on it´s own (judge that a good or bad thing if you like).
Just when Oldman´s fanaticism and instruments of Roman torture bring some human scariness, The Mills and Boon fantasy sequences of Valerie, resplendent in scarlet train with Peter climbing a snowy mountain top, tip it into the laughable category.
And at two hours, it´s long. Just as well Seyfried holds the screen as well as she does, avoiding a shallow Letters to Juliet performance.
Still, it could be worse. It could be Christina Ricci´s thoroughly wretched werewolf pudding, Cursed.
Red Riding Hood
Director: Catherine Hardwicke
Writer: David Leslie Johnson
Running Time: 2 hr.
Genre: Horror, Romance
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Cast: Amanda Seyfried, Gary Oldman, Billy Burke, Shiloh Fernandez, Max Irons, Virginia Madsen, Lukas Haas, Julie Christie, Michael Hogan, Michael Shanks