Red Riding Hood review

Kunal Guha

As the title suggests, this is a take on the almost forgotten fairytale, 'The Red Riding Hood'. And once you watch this movie, it will scar your childhood memory of the original forever. And it's also foolishly apparent that this is director Catherine Hardwicke's very next after 'Twilight'. Werewolf there and here. Bad actors there, worse here. Regardless, this is how the film rolls...

Welcome to Wolfville. It's a very cold place (literally and metaphorically) where people dress like extras from a Robin Hood play and spend their entire lives fearing a certain werewolf. But for good reason, as intermittently through the film, village folk are brutally skinned by the furry beast. Gongs are hammered to announce that the wolf has claimed another victim. But the high fatality rate makes it a casual affair, so people gather about, make apologetic faces for a while and the body is carted away (where are all these bodies going?).

Swimming amidst this chaos, is the love story of our beloved village belle, Valerie (Amanda Seyfried) who has true, mad and deep feelings for woodcutter Peter (Shiloh Fernandez). But in true 80's Bollywood style, her parents force her to marry Henry (Max Irons), a wealthy blacksmith's son as they wish her a life beyond the rags she's wrapped in through this movie. And if you think this is cheesy? Her grandma (Julie Christie) offers pearls of wisdom like, "All sorrows are better with bread," And perhaps some Bourbon?

But Valerie's grandma is the only one who offers some relief in this otherwise grim movie. Her role isn't crucial, yet it is she who stitches her grand-daughter a red cloak half way into the movie, just before you could forget what you were watching. Her unassuming and cocky character will also paralyze you with fear as she slithers out of the bed and unwraps herself out of giant mink coats, while you expect the werewolf. If there's any consolation, she's way scarier and sinister looking than the four-legged wild beast.

Anyway, the film trots about in a mushy mess of romance and fear of the paranormal, until witch hunter, Father Solomon (Gary Oldman) arrives, and the movie doesn't take any dramatic turns after this either. He's also a macho werewolf hunter (in his violet jester suit), who has a knack for sniffing werewolves. He's assisted by his guards who speak in a Jamaican accent (so we're in the middle-ages, right?). Predictably, the film creates forced situations that throw many characters under suspicion as you wonder who the hell is the werewolf and why is Valerie so flaky with her relationships.

In the film's defense, you can hardly guess who the werewolf is, till the end and there are a few scenes that successfully evoke fear and frustration, essential ingredients in a movie like this. The rest is, well, crying wolf.

Seyfried is stunning in her summery long hair and puppy-dog eyes that convey most of her feelings. Gary Oldman who occupies a lot of screen space seems apt for the role but his angst seems a bit misplaced. Both Shiloh and Max seem like they're trying too hard to prove themselves as suitable lovers and actors. The film is shot beautifully with shades you'd want in a fantasy film. The background score is minimal to the extent of barely being noticed.

So, if your friends say, "How fat a wallet you have!" Your reply must be, "All the better for spending on a hopeless werewolf movie, my dear."

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