Red Riding Hood
In Red Riding Hood, the age-old fairytale of a little girl who learns the perils of talking to strangers has been turned into a sort of supernatural harlequin murder mystery by Catherine Hardwicke, director of the 2008 teen vampire flick Twilight. Though nominally a horror film, its dearth of scares and potent strain of adolescent melodrama will inspire more comparisons to Stephenie Meyer's bestselling saga than its director would probably care to acknowledge.
In this version, the titular red-cloaked heroine, played by doe-eyed Amanda Seyfried, is given a name "Valerie" and cast not as the disobedient naïf we remember from the original fable but a headstrong and independent-minded young lady who would never fall for the tricks of some hairy beast masquerading as her grandmother. Although betrothed by parental arrangement to Henry (Max Irons) the respectable scion of a wealthy blacksmithing family, her heart really belongs to Peter (Shiloh Fernandez), the darkly handsome town badboy whose chosen occupation, woodworker, apparently ranks far below blacksmith in the social hierarchy.
Valerie is inclined to run off with Peter, but soon such inclinations must be shelved when her sister turns up dead, the apparent victim of a wolf that has terrorized the residents of Daggerhorn, the rustic, medieval-ish mountain village in which the film is set (the exact setting and time period are kept weirdly indeterminate), for decades. The men of Daggerhorn resolve to avenge the girl's death and slay the murderous animal once and for all, but they appear hopelessly outmatched until Father Solomon (Gary Oldman), a blustery hunter/inquisitor with dubious religious credentials, arrives on the scene. Solomon informs the beleaguered Daggerhornians that the wolf they are dealing with is no mere wolf, but a shape-shifting werewolf with powers far greater than any of them had anticipated.
Even worse, when the moon isn't full, he (or she) walks among them, unnoticed, in human form. Everyone is a suspect, Solomon declares, and soon Red Riding Hood evolves into a hokey whodunit filled with all sorts of unconvincing feints and red herrings. At the center of the mystery is poor Valerie, in whom the werewolf seems inordinately interested. "Ohmigod, you can talk!" she gasps when the werewolf first speaks to her, telepathically - a line that got some of the loudest laughs in a film that is far too often inadvertently comedic.
Such is the danger of a film that treats such a subject as ridiculous as Red Riding Hood's with such unrelenting gravity - melodrama curdles into gooey, processed cheese. And this film is slathered with it. Which wouldn't be so bad if the subject matters were at least a little suspenseful, but Hardwicke is unable to exact much terror or fright out of David Leslie Johnson's too-tame script. (The film's PG-13 rating doesn't help.) What we're left with is a gauzy romance that might have even ardent Twi-hard types rolling their eyes.
Hollywood.com rated this movie 2 stars.