Those familiar with the work of Catherine Hardwicke and her directorial efforts of the first Twilight film may dismiss her latest offering, Red Riding Hood as nothing more than a further Twilight-esque effort on her part. Cynics may well view her work here as a rather calculated attempt to capitalise on the success she previously enjoyed. Certainly the promotional material for the film strongly reinforces Hardwicke’s Twilight credentials, with the trailer for the film itself heavily resembling the massively successful franchise. Certainly, Hardwicke’s film is similar in both style and tone to her well-known work, but Red Riding Hood is an altogether more mature work. Gone is the focal abstinence of Twilight, with less sanitized teen-angst here temptation is ever prevalent and often acted upon.
Valerie (Amanda Seyfried) lives in a remote village, hidden away in the mountains: she informs us through the aid of voice-over that for years the village has been plagued by the existence of a wolf. This wolf has to date been sated by the village’s monthly sacrifice of live-stock, despite this agreement, the village’s inhabitants live in fear of the menacing presence the wolf continually presents.
At the film’s commencement, Valerie is told her marriage to the wealthy Henry has been agreed upon without her consent; Valerie is in love with her childhood companion, the decidedly poorer, Peter. On the day Valerie intends to elope with Peter, her sister is found to have been murdered by the wolf, who for unknown reasons appears to have reneged on the existing agreement.
In desperation the village’s religious figurehead summons Father Solomon (Gary Oldman) who has garnered a reputation for his ability to rid villages of were-wolves and witches. Solomon embarks upon a search for the wolf, accusing various people within the village of potentially being the wolf. Valerie quickly finds herself embroiled in the village’s growing suspicion of one another, contending with her desire for Peter, as well as simultaneously attempting to deflect the interests of the honourable Henry.
Hardwicke’s direction retains much of the dreamy, romanticised visual style that so characterised the firstTwilight film. Here, as with Twilight, her almost wistful style of direction works: the slow, passive shots of the surrounding mountains and woods are wonderfully atmospheric. Amanda Seyfried shines, especially in comparison to the slightly more lacklustre efforts of her fellow cast members.
I am not for one moment heralding Red Riding Hood as a truly great film, it is highly improbable that it will be remembered for long, but that is not to say that it isn’t enjoyable for its duration. It is wonderfully escapist, relatively engaging. It is clear the cast, especially Gary Oldman (hamming it up enjoyably), are having fun. This in turn reinforces the enjoyment of the film itself; whilst the film is serious in nature, it importantly doesn’t take its subject matter too seriously.
Certainly this isn’t a film for everyone, but its target audience of young adolescents would surely find theirTwilight tastes indulged in Red Riding Hood. On that basis alone, Hardwicke’s film is successful. Those whose enjoyments rarely stretch beyond the cerebral will undoubtedly hate Red Riding Hood, but those who can enjoy a film within the confines of its genre, without dismissing its subject matter as beneath them, will find themselves indulging in an enjoyable film.