Film Review: Red Riding Hood

London Life Coach & Relationship Expert Sloan Sheridan-Williams talks about “Red Riding Hood” and the story’s metaphors. Follow Sloan Life Coach on Twitter @SloanSW_London and check out Sloan’s Life Coaching website

A cross between ‘Little Red Riding Hood’, ‘Peter and the Wolf’ and ‘Twilight’,  this version of Red Riding Hood delivers on the sweet romance front however rests on the precipice of veering into dark unsettling terrority never quite taking the leap needed to scare the audience.

Amanda Seyfried plays the lead protagonist Valerie, a beautiful charming vibrant young woman torn between two men. She is bequeathed to a wealthy gentleman by the name of Henry but is in love with Peter, as a mysterious brooding outsider, portrayed Shiloh Fernandez.

Valerie and Peter brought together by a love so strong are planning to run away together to avoid Valerie marrying Henry. They then learn that Valerie’s older sister has been killed by a monster that prowls the dark forest that surrounds the village. Just like in the film ‘The Village’, until now there has been a truce with the beast where so long as the inhabitants bring the creature a monthly sacrifice they will come to no harm, but unlike ‘The Village’ this beast is real and that to a werewolf. It appears the blood red moon has become too much for the wolf who has now taken a human life and that obviously breaks the truce.

Enter Gary Oldman, as Father Solomon, whom the people of the village call upon to kill the werewolf in an act of revenge. The twist although not unexpected is that Father Solomon explains to the village that the wolf can actually take human form and can be any one of them. The death count continues to increase with each new moon and Valerie begins to suspect that the wolf may be closer than she thinks. Once Valerie’s suspicions are aroused she becomes both the suspect and the next potential victim.

I must say as an original fan of the 1984 film ‘The Company of Wolves’ I was prepared to be disappointed by yet another remake of Red Riding Hood. There is definitely visual appeal far greater than anything achievable in 1984 without the use of CGI, however the dialogue seems somewhat lacking. Perhaps the market is quite like Twilight and aiming for the teenage female audience, however if you look deeper into the underlying psychological issues such as repression, desire, revenge and longing, this may just have the makings of a psycho–thriller. Unfortunately for some this is a PG13 film in the States and has a similar classification here, therefore there is an absence of blood and gore which does leave it somewhat lacking for the Saw genre fans requiring a good dose of true horror.

Red Riding Hood does have it good points, it has at least stayed grounded in the medieval style fantasy of allowing the viewer to escape to a place where werewolves and witches exist and the church is a higher power setting rules by which to live by. It is easy to fall in love with Seyfried’s character Valerie no doubt she will be universally loved, she is virtuous, she is tempted, she is trusting and she has good intentions but like the majority of us she leaves herself open to the pitfalls of love, life and seduction. Artistically Valerie’s fondness for wearing a vibrant red cloak is stunning in look and clever in its underlying meaning of sexual awakening.

The film also attempts to retain some of the framework of the children’s story, albeit with artistic variation. Fairy tales are often used to speak to both our conscious and unconscious, therefore do not need to avoid contradictions because these can easily exist in our subconscious. This does not translate into film as well in this instance. The original fairytale speaks of human passions, oral greediness, aggressive behaviour and sexual desires. In the original there is no conspiracy of adults, the heroine is forced to mend her ways via her own conscious and not the way society demands. With the presence of Father Solomon, Gary Oldman’s character inhabits a moral grey area but the script does not delve quite how I would like it to on the complexity of his motivations

The original also know as Little Red Cap concentrates on the child-like view about whether to live by the pleasure principle or in the real world. It deals very well with situations where we are at a cross roads and we make the wrong choice. What is interesting in both this film and the original fairytale, is that the wolf at all times has the ability to eat both Little Red Cap and Valerie yet chooses not to do so at the beginning of the story. Cynics may say that this is because Valerie cannot be eaten in the first 20mins of the film but psychologists may look at this as the fact the grandmother must be eaten before Little Red Cap in a bid for the transformation into adulthood. Perhaps the film is trying to portray the wolf’s selfish, violent and potentially destructive tendencies as representative of the id, in contrast to the unselfish, thoughtful attributes of the ego who may or may not be a character who will save Valerie.

Hardwicke as a director is remarkable in playing the red herring game and although I did guess the werewolf, I hear that many did not. To me the disappointment of the film was the lack of romantic chemistry, however the highlight was indeed the mastery displayed when it comes to creating atmosphere.  I really did get a sense of the isolation in the village and the power wielded by Father Solomon and appreciated the lack of blood and gore although I do realise not all will take this view. It is a beautiful motion picture potentially appealable to the Twilight crowd but also reaching a further audience. Well worth a view, but I would only rate it 3 stars out of 5.

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Trailer reproduced from ClevverTV/Warner Bros Pictures

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