Red Riding Hood Review by guest reviewer, Susan Graham

28 Mar

I saw this movie.

I don’t know if you’re surprised about that or not.

I will say to begin that I think I liked the movie a lot better because I spend my time reading original versions of folktales. If you haven’t seen it yet, I recommend reading Paul Delarue’s “The Story of Grandmother” and also the Perrault version of the folktale before viewing the film. Those are the two earliest printed versions with Delarue’s wolf being a bzou (a werewolf) and Perrault’s being an actual wolf. At the end of Perrault’s though there’s a little “moral,” which tells girls that there are men who are really wolves & to be careful because if little girls stray, they’ll be raped. Basically. The thing is, the rape allegory is all throughout the movie, but it’s not really the point of the movie. All the concepts of the original folktale are scattered throughout the movie (blame of the woman, loss of virginity, cannibalism, even woman as property), but again, those things aren’t the point of the story. They’re just there.

In general though, there are a TON of references to other versions, whether they come from plot points, dialogue or visual cues. This was probably my favorite part of the movie – looking for other versions within it and seeing how they affect or don’t affect the whole. Some are insanely important, and others are just passing references or allusions. Either way, it’s fun. So educate yourselves first or you’ll be left with the things about which I’m about to talk…

I have to complain about the red herrings. There are several characters Valerie (Amanda Seyfried) thinks may be the wolf at different points throughout the movie, but few are logical red herrings. It’s almost annoying how illogical it would be for some of these people to be the wolf. HOWEVER, in her mistrust of people around her, the rape allegory of the original folktales is the most transparent in the film because of course many of her suspects are boys, including both of her possible love interests. Look at them!

I hated the ending, but that is because I hate overly sentimental things that simply aren’t necessary. I cannot really complain about it though because the poster clearly states, “BY THE DIRECTOR OF TWILIGHT.” I’m generally against judging a movie based on a director’s past creations (especially since Hardwicke did production design on movies including SubUrbia and Tank Girl! and directed Lords of Dogtown and Thirteen…), but because of the similarities (mainly the teen love triangle thing), I have to say I knew what I was going to get when I went to see the movie.  I was just hoping the ending would be a little grittier considering that the movie itself had such a potential for darkness.

There are actually things I liked about this movie. I will now tell you them.

You all have seen Twilight (probably) and you know Catherine Hardwicke’s propensity for trees… and setting… and whatever. This movie has all that, and it can be absolutely gorgeous with open space, trees, snow, mountains… You know, pretty things. She also creates a mood with her setting that is darker. Her town is barren and dirty, the people seem enclosed when they’re in the town, isolated from the outside… It’s just a huge contrast between using setting to establish actual setting and using setting to establish mood and atmosphere. There are some really beautifully shot frames, especially in the town, that look like they come straight from a storybook. It fits the expectations of the audience and adapts the medium to reflect preceding presentations of the story. It’s nice.

A lot of the shots are about what people see and feel, and it tries to play with the expectations of the audience. From the very beginning the grandmother and the wolf are aligned through visual cues for instance.

Some of the other shots were strange because Valerie wasn’t the main focus. In fact, she almost stood awkwardly in the background sometimes while two other characters talked in the foreground (There’s one in particular with Gary Oldman). She clearly wasn’t the focus (other characters were in the foreground, had greater pictorial weight, were larger, blah blah blah), but her red cloak made her the focus. Like I said, it was awkward. I liked it though.

In terms of atmosphere, it is very tactile. There is raw meat all throughout the movie, and pretty much everything is dirty. They have a celebration, and it’s no mountain-peasant-country-dance feast. It’s like Bacchanalia or Carnivale with heavy drums and weird, writhing creeper-style contra dancing. Masks and disguises are a big part of the red riding hood story, and a Carnivale situation is an excuse for them to say, “Look! Masks! See? Get it!” It’s also pretty much all about sex (Remember, rape allegory?). BUT… it’s effective. It’s no innocent village being plagued by a werewolf. It’s a village full of creepy people who like to drink, dance and have the sex.

Also, they have no qualms about the darkness inherent in the red riding hood story, but most of it comes from the human characters, not the wolf. Solomon (Gary Oldman) is more evil than the wolf. Just saying. The wolf just wants to abduct a girl and take her away with him, but Gary Oldman kind of wants to kill everything with his creeper hands in the name of God.

I actually cannot decide how I feel about the insertion of the church into the classic folktale. Clearly movies about werewolves have gone without it in the past, but a main part of a folktale setting is usually a nondescript medieval setting – rural, technology free and poverty riddled. Historically, such medieval societies would have been affected by the church in some capacity, and it added an element that wasn’t just… “Werewolf! Love triangle! Ullllll!” so I guess I’m glad it was there? It gave the story an added element of conflict, and it definitely wasn’t about love. So… I guess, it’s a pro instead of a con. Sure, why not?

To make a long story short, this movie had things to offer that weren’t Twilight, but most of them come from the atmosphere and knowledge of older versions of Little Red Riding Hood. So… just read some of the originals and go with folktales in mind. There is more to this movie than the obvious Twilight similarities, and I’d definitely be more likely to watch this movie again than I would any of the movies in the Twilight saga.

Please don’t be prejudiced.

Your friend,

Susan

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2 Responses to “Red Riding Hood Review by guest reviewer, Susan Graham”

  1. brandiharward May 11, 2011 at 9:00 am #

    i need the red cloak

    • Victorie October 11, 2011 at 3:38 pm #

      I want a cloak like that…:(

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