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Howling Bad

Movie Review: Red Riding Hood (2011)
Summary: Set in a medieval village that is haunted by a werewolf, a young girl falls for an orphaned woodcutter, much to her family’s displeasure.
Spoilers: none

Catherine Hardwicke, the director of the first Twilight movie, brings us Red Riding Hood, a lifeless regurgitation of the Twilight films, observably lacking in passion or appeal of any kind for even the most sub-par of cheap teen romances.

A village is plagued by a werewolf while a young woman, “Valerie” (Amanda Seyfried), seeks to be with the love of her life, “Peter” (Shiloh Fernandez). Valerie is betrothed to another man, “Henry” (Max Irons) who, due to his profession, has the approval of her parents to have her hand in marriage.

But with the villagers living in fear of the werewolf (who has chosen to resume taking their lives despite a pact from long ago), “Father Solomon” (Gary Oldman), an observant and watchful priest, brings his men to hunt down and destroy the wolf, but he’ll do more than hunt down the wolf—he’ll bring suspicion, along with a large and heavy brazen elephant to put heretics into, allowing them to contemplate their sins while marinating in their own juices.

The priest, with his Inquisitionist-style approach to fact-finding, is quite openly the stuff of parody and medieval church stereotypes that us grumpy atheists have been known to carry on about. He begins to turn the village upside-down with paranoid accusations—this while the wolf comes after our red cape-wearing damsel for reasons not known to the villagers.

You may not be a fan of the Twilight series, but you’ll prefer it any day of the week over this loused up waste of film, which doesn’t so much as lift a pinky to be original; like Twilight, it involves tall trees, heavy clouds, an isolated group of people, a pretty young girl and two young men who compete for her love, and a large and fast wolf that becomes a human being when it wants to.

Combine 2010’s The Wolfman with Twilight and throw in some General Hospital and you have a rough idea of what you’re dealing with in this travesty of a teen romance, with a vindictive priest who carries around this massive elephant (must have been very hard to bring it to a remote village through the thick woods with so few men), and a wolf that takes an interest in a young girl because she apparently has fun slitting the throats of bunnies. Who would want to watch such a thing?

There is no passion or wit or chemistry in this scrapheap-worthy script that is a ways off the beaten path of good sense or normalcy. These dull and wooden performances that make the movie feel like a bad high school play are made worse by stilted lines and one-dimensional characters like Gary Oldman’s “Father Solomon” that couldn’t be more primed and readied for roasting on Monty Python’s Flying Circus if the movie was actually made with that intent.

Would that this bloodless “whodunit” horror were a laughably bad achievement, but it isn’t. It’s just bad. The garbled plot feels drummed up with most of the absurd characters doing far more than raising questions, but making the audience wonder how such substandard viewing could ever have made it past test audiences; it bludgeons viewers by showing a beloved childhood fairytale turned into something that neither an adult, nor a child would want to watch.

Even the wolf CGI is less than effective, with the only pluses being that because of advanced pacing and potentially stirring music, the movie feels like it is over before it begins. But sealing the deal on its electrifying lack of value, Red Riding Hood is not good enough to win admirers for its ludicrous adulteration of a story, but it isn’t bad enough to be appreciated as a surface-level “so bad it’s good!” botch, either.

(JH)

Grade: F (0 stars)
Rated: PG-13 (for violence and creature terror, and some sensuality)
Director: Catherine Hardwicke
Starring: “Valerie” Amanda Seyfried, “Solomon” Gary Oldman, “Cesaire” Billy Burke, “Peter” Shiloh Fernandez, “Henry” Max Irons, “Suzette” Virginia Madsen, “Father Auguste” Lukas Haas, “Grandmother” Julie Christie
Genre: Fantasy / Horror / Mystery / Thriller
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