Catherine Hardwicke’s re-imagining of the Brothers Grimm's age-old tale is still 'Red Riding Hood', but not as we know it - at least not in modern times, where a sanitised, child-friendly version of the story triumphs. Giving her film a medieval, gothic setting, which hangs onto the iconic elements of the original story, Hardwicke presents a cautionary tale with a slightly more sinister feel.
We all know that story of the little girl in the red cape venturing into the woods, where she's told to beware of the wolf. This time 'round, the story has a coming-of-age feel as headstrong local girl Valerie (Seyfried) is contemplating running away from her village with the love of her life, woodcutter Peter (Fernandez). But their plans are hampered when the wolf who terrorises the village strikes again, this time closer to home. Valerie is dealt a further blow when her mother (Madsen) reveals that she must become engaged to well-to-do blacksmith Henry Lazar (Irons), who had previously captured the heart of her sister.
Meanwhile, the villagers, lead by Valerie’s father Cesaire (Burke), have decided to hunt the wolf who will not give them peace, summoning the help of high priest Father Solomon (Oldman) and his army. But nobody is prepared for the news that the creature that is haunting them is actually a werewolf, taking human form by day and living amongst them. And so the eyes of suspicion are cast upon everyone, particularly by Valerie, who seems to hold special interest for the wolf.
'Red Riding Hood' has Catherine Hardwicke's stamp firmly placed on it, and fans of her work on 'Twilight' will most likely lap this up, with her enthusiasm for the story always evident in the finished product. The spectacular location plays a key role in pulling the story together, as does a great soundtrack. The plot itself is not as dark as you might expect, but there is certainly enough suspense, intrigue and pace to keep the whodunit angle running until the climax. And with a love-triangle, a murder-mystery and a sprinkling of mythical fantasy, you're not likely to get bored.
There’s also an amazing cast assembled here, from the wonderful Gary Oldman, as the high priest with extreme methods, to the always impressive Julie Christie, as the quirky grandmother with plenty of secrets. In the leading roles, Amanda Seyfried seems like an obvious choice for a fairytale character of this nature, with her big beautiful eyes and flowing locks, and she delivers what is asked of her, while Max Irons and Shiloh Fernandez are suitably broody as the love rivals vying for her attention. Virginia Madsen and ‘Twilight’s Billy Burke are also convincing as Valerie’s strained and heartbroken parents.
‘Red Riding Hood’ is an interesting take on a classic fairytale, with enough twists to keep you watching, while maybe not on the very edge of your seat. Visually this is also a treat, particularly with some great carnival scenes in the village, and Hardwicke's attention to detail is great, and allows her to get the best from her cast.