The Cold Light of (Mon)day: Red Riding Hood (2011)

Ever had one of these weekends where you end up watching movies that you either a) know you hate; b) know are going to be a punish; c) know you’re way to old not to be shamed by watching them; or d) know are going to take you back into your own past – which can go either way, depending on the day you’re having?

Me too, and that’s why I am starting this new series of posts, in which I will reflect on the viewing misadventures that I sometimes have when it’s a cold and boring weekend. With winter coming up, I feel there might be a lot more in store. Sigh. (As it happens, Lauren and I live in a pretty cold climate – no love, just a cold climate – so winters are often those of our discontent. Running away to movie land always seems like a good idea. Until it isn’t).

I remember vividly how excited I was when I saw the trailer for the dark and romantic looking Red Riding Hood film. I’m not a huge Hardwicke fan, but I think I was going through a Twilight ‘thing’ at the time (there was 5 minutes in my life when Rob Pattinson was giving me very strong feels) and I thought that I would give this a go, to kind of fill the Twilight void, and that it would be awesome.
Oh how wrong I was…

I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I was massively disappointed with Red Riding Hood the first time I saw it. I remember being even more disappointed when my friend later asked me to sit through it a second time with him (on cable), and we ended up being unfortunate enough to see the USA cut – with no ‘provocative ending’ and I was extra livid (he fell asleep before Peter even got locked in the giant metal elephant btw, so it was like a double punishment).

Anyway – I was pretty filthy over the time I wasted watching this film. Still, for some reason I bought it on DVD (or someone bought it for me, I can’t recall, but in any case, I own it).

After a long and boring weekend this weekend just gone, I decided that enough time had passed to dull my hated and as such,  I might give it another spin. Which brings us to this review.

Red Riding Hood….

What we ultimately have here is a modern type retelling of a really old fairy tale. The fact that it’s a modern retelling that is set at some point in the past complicates this issue. Despite that, I am a fan of the mythical past-world which the main characters live in. Their village is called Daggerhorn and it seems to be somewhere on the periphery of the Middle Ages, or whatever time in world history it was there were woodsmen who used small hand axes to cut down tall trees and got wonderfully muscular because of it. There is no electricity in this time, so everything is made more sexy or mysterious by bonfires and candle light. Socially speaking, all sorrows are less with bread, so you know, it’s a pretty different age, with less concern about global issues and more of a focus on family and food. Sounds like the kind of place you want to visit, right? Wrong.

axe man
(HUGE tree, tiny axe. It’s all good though, Peter and his upper body muscles *all of them* benefit from this work out)

See, there seems to be a big bad wolf stalking the community. No one has been able to capture it for two generations, so the whole population are pretty much living in fear (even the woodsmen with their axes and muscles) and people are sacrificing a lot of goats to keep the wolf at bay. There’s a pretty sweet church and a priest who seems to be entrenched in everyone’s lives, but nothing is getting said about the magical pagan behaviours that are going on in relation to this wolf (it must be the Middle Ages), but I guess the Roman Catholic Church doesn’t hold as much sway in the rural backwaters, so you have the luxury of being a bit more mystical.

This is the situation in which we find ourselves.

Amanda Seyfried is our heroine, Valerie, AKA Little Red Riding Hood. Her red cloak is the highlight of her character, but I am bias because I have never been a Seyfried fan. I blame Mamma Mia in particular, and ABBA in general. From moment one I feel like Valerie is parading around pretending to be something she isn’t – which is a heroine. She’s doing a good job of playing strong and independent but in actual fact, she’s abdicating the tough decisions to anyone that wants to take them on and she’s not even fighting her betrothal to a man she doesn’t love… which brings us to:

other lover
(for such a small hamlet, there is no end of handsome men. Clearly, we’re in fairytale land)

Shiloh Fernandez as Peter – now this is a character I certainly remember, that I have always remembered, because he pretty much steals all the scenes he is in and in a film of flat performances, he is the only one that you find yourself emotionally connected to but that’s probably because his is the only character that gets the full range of emotions to run through. Most of said emotions are painful and tormenting, so require a lot of brooding. It really is a beautiful thing to watch. I’m not going to belittle us both by pretending that the fact that he is smokin’ hot has nothing to do with it, because he is smokin’ hot.

(this woodsman can drink ale and roll in the hay with me at any time)

Side bar: I thought also thought Shiloh Fernandez was fantastic in the remake of Evil Dead, which gets credit for having some of the most wonderfully realistic gore scenes of recent memory. It’s not just a looks thing, I genuinely think he’s the strongest performer in Red Riding Hood (as well as the best looking) – which shames me, because:

Red Riding Hood
(Garry and I have a thing, it’s been going on since Dracula, but really stepped up a notch after Sirius Black)

Garry Oldman is criminally underutilised as the semi-villain of Red Riding Hood. When he turns up, he seems as if he’s going to be a major player, but I felt like his character was never properly developed. Did I love him? Did I hate him? I don’t know that I actually felt anything about him either way. Garry Oldman is such a phenomenal character actor, with a wide range and almost unlimited ability… yet, I can’t actually even remember his character’s name… and that is really a crime.

(How can you be bros when you’re loving the same woman? You can’t.)

Little Jeremy Irons appears as the other love interest. We know that from minute one our heroine is not interested, that she has never been interested and that she is longing to get herself a slice of Peter-Pie, so it’s a tough ask to root for Henry. He’s nice enough though and adds a good bro-dynamic, which is good for Peter, cause the only other male leads are sketchy and inconsistent… or they’re Lucas Haas, who I loved in Boys, but nothing since.

For me, the best scene in the movie isn’t the ‘provocative ending’ that you get in the not-American cut of the film, it’s actually the scene at the dance, when everything comes to a head and Peter and Valerie get honest about their love for each other. I can’t even tell you how envious I am of Amanda Seyfried in the scene.

So, after all is said and done. I don’t feel any more fondness for this film, but having said that, I don’t hate myself as much as I did the first time I watched it. Will I rush out and watch it again? Nope. Will I sell the copy of the DVD? Probably not. I’m not discounting the possibility that one day in the future there will be another long and lonely afternoon which would benefit from a trip to Daggerhorn. Still, I hope that afternoon is a fair way off.

If you’re an intrepid movie traveller and have not yet had occasion to visit Daggerhorn, I warn you to do so at your own peril. You might go into it feeling one thing, but you’ll come out feeling something quite different.


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