Starring: Amanda Seyfried, Gary Oldman, Lukas Haas, Shiloh Fernandez, Billy Burke, Max Irons, Virginia Madsen, Julie Christie
Director: Catherine Hardwicke
Writer: David Johnson
Cinematography: Mandy Walker
Original Score: Alex Heffes, Brian Reitzell
Running Time: 100 Mins.
Well it didn’t take too long, Hollywood does love a trend, especially a money-spinner that isn’t all that costly and has some staple elements that its demographic (largely teenage girls) loves, burgeoning romance taking in the more appropriate suitor (who she doesn’t love but is “better” for her), the bad boy (who she inevitably does love), all set against a mythical backdrop with a smattering of action (for the guys) and lots and lots of teenage angst…sound familiar yet? Well it should, this is the formula Twilight kindly hoisted upon us and greets us not once but twice this week with both Red Riding Hood and Beastly, Beastly flopped badly upon release and Red Riding Hood didn’t fare much better, can it succeed here?
For a start it had pedigree, where Beastly doesn’t, seeing Catherine Hardwicke (she behind Twilight mk.1) back behind the camera as well as Billy Burke once again taking on the role of out heroine’s father, add to this a source material that invites the gothic and macabre with open arms (Grimm’s original fairy tales) and you should have an easy hit on your hands that can please even more fanbases than Twilight did…not so and Red Riding Hood shows you obviously can’t catch lightning in a bottle.
It isn’t that Red Riding Hood is a bad film, rather it suffers the Twilight saga’s weaknesses but retains none of the strengths, the atmosphere is initially nicely built up by Hardwicke, sweeping across mountains to a small gothic village amidst the snow and setting the scene, a wolf is on the lose, killing at will and breaking the unspoken pact between wolf and village, so pitchforks and axes are raised in a hunt for the wolf. When dealing with this aspect Red Riding Hood promises much, especially when it heralds the arrival of an on-form Gary Oldman (pitching himself somewhere just shy of totally nuts), it is here the film is at its best as Oldman initiates a “witch-hunt” to uncover which resident is the wolf.
Weaving around the village the whodunnit question is ever-present and it is a fun guessing game especially as family members begin to suspect one another and the tension gets built up…until it is systematically shot down in favour of the angsty moping and the dull as dishwater love triangle. In Twilight the triangle was at least injected with a little flair and a fun script that had characters who may have been OTT but at least they were fun to watch, here we have Seyfried, Fernandez and Irons, all are poorly served by the script (which only offers Oldman any respite from staleness) though that really is not an excuse for any level of convincing as either interesting or fun, heck at least to be OTT is fun to watch! These guys just look plain bored, and worse still is the total lack of chemistry.
Just as you think you may drop off though something jolts you awake again, generally speaking it is a toss-up between Oldman, the well realised werewolf itself or the sleek direction that sweeps in and around the village. As much as the film owes a debt to Twilight I couldn’t help recalling the work of Tim Burton in Sleepy Hollow, something it would have been wise to look for a little more inspiration for that films sense of fun it one all too often missing here…apparently angst and teenage moping doesn’t always yield big bucks, thank god!
Red Riding Hood bounces between a rather dull and poorly acted romance, and the infinitely more interesting (and entertaining) gothic horror that suggests how much fun this could have been had the producers not been yearning for another Twilight clone, sometimes a film should be left to entertain as its own entity…take note!