Catherine Hardwicke’s follow up to Twilight, Red Riding Hood is an odd choice for such a matter. With the lack of feasible sequel potential and its much-loved roots, the material demands a strongly crafted piece of work in order to establish itself as anything but a soon-to-be-forgotten flavour of the week. Unfortunately, and rather inevitably, that’s exactly what it is destined to be. Starring Amanda Seyfried as the titular Valerie, the story juggles her love triangle with her arranged fiancé Henry (Fernando Torres lookalike and fantastically named Max Irons) and her seemingly true love Peter (Shiloh Fernandez) with the graver issue of a bloodthirsty werewolf. Initially kept at bay due to an animal sacrifice every full moon, the wolf has begun attacking villagers. Enter Father Solomon (Gary Oldman, increasingly bored as the film progresses), who informs the village that the wolf is one of them- but who?
Surprisingly, the identity of the poorly rendered werewolf comes as quite a surprise, and a fun little mystery can be had at guessing who. For those not old enough for Scream 4, a similar experience can be had here. Yet what tarnishes the movie is its idea that certain conventions have to be fulfilled when the story clearly breathes better without them. The devolution of Father Solomon and his followers from God-sent saviours to a fascist regime as villagers are tortured, humiliated and killed serves no purpose than to have the typical pantomime villain, and it makes little sense that these are the actions of someone there to help, selfish reasons or otherwise. Likewise, if the whole purpose is to discover which villager is the big bad wolf, why not order everyone to stand in the square at night and see who changes?
At the films heart, Seyfried has an alluring and almost magnetic presence, yet she isn’t given much to do. Unaided by the rest of the cast’s indifference (Billy Burke as her father is as wooden as ever whereas the two male leads do little to suggest that it was their talent rather than their looks that gave them the part), she tries her best to extract as much enjoyment out of her role, but never truly delivers. Her persecution as a witch after she is discovered to have communicated with the wolf briefly raises the tempo and excitement levels but she seems more of a bystander in these sequences as the action unfolds around her, whereas the romance side of things is instantly forgettable and it’s rather hard to care. Again, the question must be asked as to why her and Peter don’t get together saying as there seems to be little to prevent it, the arrange marriage being called off as quickly as it’s announced.
It’s not a dreadful film by any stretch, but it’s just there. There’s little to demand repeat viewings, and it’s unlikely to be the success the backers would arguably have expected. The thing is riddled with inconsistencies, particularly the globetrotting accents on show, and it won’t reach anywhere near the level of adoration which Hardwicke’s past works have demanded. And before you ask, yes there is a recital of the famous Q+A at the heart of the source, which is either a lovely little touch or utterly farcical depending on your cynicism levels.