Why “Red Riding Hood” is Better than We Remember

There was a strange trend in the early 2010’s which featured of slew of old fairy tale stories getting remade into gritty action/thriller films.  These included Snow White and the Huntsman (2012), Jack the Giant Slayer (2013), Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (2013), and Maleficent (2014), as well as ABC’s Once Upon a Time (2011) if you count TV.

It was an odd trend, motivated by the massive success of the Lord of the Rings franchise, as well as other young adult adaptations like Harry Potter and Twilight.

This trend arguably began with the boom in young adult adaptations of the era, but it was 2011’s Red Riding Hood that seemed to kick it off officially.  The movie largely came and went, not really leaving much of an impact on the horror genre.

Produced by Leonardo DiCaprio (yes you read that right) and directed by Catherine Hardwicke (Twilight, The Nativity Story, Thirteen, Lords of Dogtown), it’s better than most people remember.

On the surface, it may have been nothing more than a studio cash grab (as were all the other aforementioned films), but it made with care and detail, and wound up being better than it needed it be.  So on its 10th anniversary, we thought it would be fitting to take a look back at Red Riding Hood.

Compelling Atmosphere
The whole movie has a very surreal and dreamlike quality to it.  The same dialogue and line deliveries would certainly seem odd in a movie set in modern day, but it works as a gothic fairy tale set in Europe centuries ago.

It oozes gothic fairy tale from every frame, and it’s looks amazing.

In fact the movie is careful not give a specific date or location, which allows it to exist in the same isolated space the village is in.  If feels cut off from the rest of the world, which makes the werewolf threat even greater.

This, along with an elaborate and elegant costume/production make the movie really beautiful just to look at.  Catherine Hardwicke is usually great at portraying compelling visuals that draw you into the world, and that’s very much the case here.

Intriguing Mystery
At its core, Red Riding Hood is a whodunit with an impressive ensemble cast, each of whom seem like they’re hiding something.  With actors like Amanda Seyfried, Gary Oldman, Virginia Madsen, Lukas Haas, and even the legendary Julie Christie, everyone in the cast is on their A-game and gives us reason to believe they could be the dreaded werewolf.

Even though he’s not the werewolf (which isn’t a spoiler because he shows up later), Gary Oldman’s character, Father Solomon is just as much a villain as the wolf!

The movie doesn’t go for any obvious red herrings, and the clues to the wolf’s identity are very subtle, but quite obvious upon a second viewing.  Mystery is a subgenre that’s very easy to go too far and over the top with, but this movie does a great job of keeping everything balanced.

Better Horror Romances
Following the reception of Twilight, and given that Red Riding Hood had the same director, there was an expectation that it would be more of the same.  Not only were these theories wrong, but in hindsight they were a little insulting.

Catherine Hardwicke is a talented director, and just because someone may not be a fan of one of her movies, doesn’t mean that she would direct every other movie the exact same way (her filmography is actually pretty diverse in genre).

Here, Valerie (Amanda Seyfried) and Peter (Shiloh Fernandez) have real chemistry and tension.  And more importantly, the romantic subplot is just that, a subplot, with the werewolf mystery at the forefront of the movie’s plot.

They feel like real people, caught up in the insanity of the world around them.

By no means is Red Riding Hood a perfect movie, but it has a lot going for it.  Between its awesome performances by everyone in it (especially Gary Oldman), its well-executed mystery, and its gorgeous production and costume design, it makes for a great watch, and it’s better than more people remember.

What did you think of Red Riding Hood?  Let us know in the comments!

Red Riding Hood is currently streaming on HBO Max!

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