Review: Red Riding Hood

It’s Me-Me Monday at Full-Tilt Backwoods Boogie.  That means I’ll share something about me–usually something I liked.  Today, it’s going to be Red Riding Hood (2011), which I finally got to see Saturday night.

I never see anything until it hits video. Being locked in an enclosed space, trapped with people and their odors, plays hell with my allergies. Oh, how I wish Drive-Ins would make a come back.

Here’s the trailer in case you have no clue what I’m talking bout. Go on and watch it. I’ll wait.

On the movie poster are the words “From the director of Twilight, comes a breathtaking vision of a 700 year old legend.”

Y’all know I’m too big of a nerd to let something like that pass without doing some research.  Let’s talk about the “seven hundred year-old legend” first, and how it was used in the film. After that, I’ll talk about a few other features of this film that stood out for me.

The story was loosely based upon the folktale Little Red Riding Hood.  Charles Pernault first collected this folktale and called it “Le Petit Chaperon Rouge.” Later, the Brothers Grimm collected it under the name “”Rotkäppchen.”

 

For the history of the folktale, this wikipedia entry is a good place to start.  To read several different versions of the folktale, click here.

The version of Little Red Riding Hood with which I am familiar is the Grimm Brother’s version.  As I watched Red Riding Hood, I was delighted to see several of the folktale’s elements used in the movie.  There was:

  • The talking wolf (and the girl who could understand him).
  • The close relationship between Red Riding Hood and her grandmother.
  • The cloak—the red riding hood—was, of course, used.
  • The real wolf masquerading as the grandmother.
  • Rocks were placed inside the wolf’s body to dispose of him.

Red Riding Hood also employed elements of Beast of Gévaudan, which is a true story about an eighteenth century French village that was terrorized by man-killing beasts (thought to be wolves).  The History Channel did a great documentary about Beast of Gévaudan called The Real Wolfman.  It is available for download on iTunes for $3.99.

Similarities between Red Riding Hood and the Beast of Gévaudan:

  • The mountainous setting
  • A professional wolf-hunter is called in to kill the beasts
  • The wrong beast is killed, and the attacks continue
  • Controversy over the species of the murdering beast

From a worldbuilding standpoint, Red Riding Hood was well done.   The “rules” are drawn from sources ranging from werewolf myths to old horror movies to current Urban Fantasy novels.  The story sticks to its own worldbuilding “rules.”

  • People could only be made werewolves during the blood moon.
  • The werewolf gene is passed down from generation to generation.  However, details got a little fuzzy here because it seems anybody could be made a werewolf with the bite…so what is special about the genetic werewolf?
  • Werewolves could not cross the threshold of a church.  They’d suffer burns.
  • Silver was harmful to the werewolf.

Something I didn’t research, but which was present, were parallels to witch hunts and witch persecution.  The witch hunts are an interesting, yet horrifying, part of history throughout several parts of the world.

The cinematography coupled with the soundtrack was mesmerizing.  The white snow set against the darkish background with the only flashes of color coming from the actor’s costumes made me feel cold.  The soundtrack featured artists with whom I was unfamiliar, but it went well with the cold bleakness of the setting.  Click here to listen to samples on itunes.

Or watch a video of “The Wolf” by Fever Ray on You Tube:

The story is, at its heart, a murder mystery.  The village of Daggerhorn has been plagued by a murderous wolf for two generations.  To appease this wolf, the town sets out its best livestock as a sacrifice on the full moon.  One day, despite the town keeping up its end of the bargain, a girl (Red Riding Hood’s sister) is found murdered.  The marks on her indicate the wolf got her.

The mystery had enough twists and turns to keep me guessing about the identity of the werewolf–which was, of course, the solution to the murder mystery.

The actors were young and gorgeous—Amanda Seyfried, Shiloh Fernandez, and Max Irons.   The young and unlined trio made up a love triangle.  Red Riding Hood is promised in marriage to Henri (Irons), but is in love with Peter (Fernandez).  The guys end up having to join forces and rescue the fair maiden.

Little Red Riding Hood had a strong moral code, which drove her decisions–and consequences–throughout the movie.

Red Riding Hood’s love interest, played by Fernandez, was well motivated.  His love of Red Riding Hood drove his decisions.  Even the third in the love triangle, played by Irons, made decisions driven by his honor.

Virginia Madsen, whom I’m old enough to remember from Fire with Fire, was a nice surprise as Red Riding Hood’s mother. Her dark secrets led to questions about the killer’s motive.

Gary Oldman was, as usual, amazing as the mean and nasty Father Soloman, the witch/werewolf hunter.


Red Riding Hood’s grandmother, played by Julie Christie, was flat-out eerie.  Her smile and the way she said things made me think she was up to something.

There is also a book associated with this movie:  Red Riding Hood by Sarah Blakely-Cartwright and David Leslie Johnson.  Some of the reviews made me wonder if this book is a movie tie-in.  I did some research and found this blog entry, which explains the book was written as part of a movie-book-media experience.  Buyer beware, I guess.

Bottom line:  I liked Red Riding Hood.  It kept me interested the whole time—which is not easy.  I was disappointed when the credits rolled because I wanted to see more.

 

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