Red Riding Hood (2011) [Female Filmmaker Friday]

Based on the Little Red Riding Hood fairytale, this cinematic version brings the tale to a medieval village with a horror twist. 

Written by David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick and directed by Catherine Hardwicke, this film takes the classic fairytale adding a twist that is a bit predictable with werewolves, but still maintaining the interest of the viewer. The story is not sheer horror so those looking for that will not be satisfied and the wolves are very very CG. Keeping their apparitions on screen to a minimum is a fantastic idea and makes the most of the fear of the unseen. The story and film rely a lot on the unseen and the unknown, as well as fears that were very real back in those days, such as being labeled a witch or an adulteress. There is something in how the film handles those that sets the fairytale aspect into very real old school fears. The writing here is good, bringing in a few surprises and a few twists that may not have been expected. The directing by Catherine Hardwicke is good as well, this is her follow-up to Twilight and she’s still working with the supernatural, young characters, a love story, and a few other themes that follow in that film’s footsteps. However, this is much better, showing that the promise she showed with Thirteen is still alive and well. Her work here creates a fairytale with some style, not of the choices the film makes make a lot of sense, but it all comes together in the end to create world for the story and cohesive film. This is one that a lot of folks seem to have skipped on when it came out, but it has some flair and a lot of interesting takes on classic elements. It’s not perfect, but it has so much charm, gothic mood, and, well, werewolves, that it’s worth checking out. 



The cast here is led by Amanda Seyfried who does quite well as Valerie, the little red riding hood in this setting. Her work is somewhere between innocent and calculated, she’s charming, but soon finds that she needs to be tough and a bit more cunning. Her performance shows this arc and shows that Seyfried has a good grasp of the character, the stakes, and how to bring it all to the screen. Playing her mother is Virginia Madsen who is always fun to see in a horror film (however, that hair was a terrible decision for the time period and her look). Playing the grandmother Julie Christie who is fantastic as always. Her father is played by Bilyl Burke who is good, but something feels off. Playing the church leader sent to save them all, Solomon, is Gary Oldman who makes the most of the material, hamming it up at times and giving a performance that befits the material the rest of the time. This man is not afraid of a potentially silly line and can make anything look like serious material. Playing the love interests Peter (a fitting name) and Henry are Shiloh Fernandez and Max Irons respectively. Both of them show potential but ultimately end up a bit on the bland side here. The supporting cast is more than decent in most cases, annoying in some cases, and a few feel a bit out of place, something that is bound to happen with this many characters in a film. 


The film cinematography by Mandy Walker is stunning at times, creating these dream-like sequences, including one on a mountain with a gigantic cape in the wind. This film looks beautiful, seemingly using mattes for the background, giving it a classic horror atmosphere. The film uses light and darkness, as well as the color red, to set moods, to create fear. The way the film is shot really brings it up and makes some of the scenes much more effective. In terms of special effects, the practical effects are decent, but the CGI is not as good. Really, a big part of that is that CGI doesn’t age well no matter what year it’s from or how many years later it’s watched it seems. CGI has seem so much advancement between 2011 and now that it shows in the film’s effects. The wolves being part of these, they look a bit cartoony almost, but they still somewhat work. 

Red Riding Hood is an entertaining take on Little Red Riding Hood that takes the fairytale, adds a twist, brings a few elements from horror films and the horrors of living in medieval times, and puts it all in beautiful settings, shoots it all with great cinematography, and has a few really good performances at the center of it all. Director Catherine Hardwicke takes what she learned from directing Twilight and what she knew from directing other films before and brings it all to the table here, making this film her own and one that works great for some and just not as great for others. Overall, a good film that is beautiful to look at.