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After the success of Twilight, it seems almost impossible to escape the avalanche of movies going for that lucrative teenage girl audience. That’s all well and good when the source material is suited for that demographic, but with something like Red Riding Hood, a classic piece of folklore, I would expect more from the studio adapting it. Unfortunately, they took the classic story and “Twilighted” it, adding in a ridiculous love triangle, and oh so much teenage angst.
It might seem like I’m harping a little too much on Twilight in a review for a film based on Little Red Riding Hood. But when the studio elected to have Catherine Hardwicke, director of the first (and arguably worst) of the Twilight franchise, direct this film as well, one can’t help but compare. This may be the only literal connection between the films (other than some Twilight actors playing a role or two), but when watching the film, I just couldn’t get the similarities out of my mind.
Amanda Seyfried plays Valerie, or Red Riding Hood, as a young woman caught between the “bad boy” she loves and the man she’s assigned to marry. Complicating matters is the presence of the “big bad wolf,” which in this version of the story is, of course, a werewolf. Beyond the impossible decision of which guy she’ll pick, the main drama of the film is the mystery regarding the identity of the wolf. There are a lot of red herrings thrown at the audience, but I have to admit that I did kind of enjoy the way that story played out.
Daggerhorn, the village where the film takes place, has had a truce with the wolf for several years. They offer a sacrifice in exchange for the safety of the village. For some reason, however, Valerie’s older sister is killed by the wolf, violating the truce, and instigating a wolfhunt that ends up costing several villagers their lives. Some of the action is actually quite well staged in these sequences, and considering how poorly Hardwicke did on Twilight, I was pretty impressed with the look of the film overall.
Daggerhorn looks like a village out of a storybook. The production design is beautiful, and while I wish the film had a larger scale to it, what we get is purely fairytale. Nestled in the woods, near the river that leads to Grandmother’s house, the village looks magical. Unfortunately, the wolf doesn’t look nearly as good as the village. A CGI creation that I’d be hard pressed to call mediocre, I never believed there was an actual creature anywhere on set.
While the studio was obviously desperate for a Twilight-style hit, the film never reached the commercial success they were going for. Despite that, they have released a pretty fantastic Blu-Ray that is probably the best a film like this could have to offer. Recently, I’ve been watching a lot of Blu-Rays that seem to have phoned in the extras, and it was nice seeing a release that really embraced the features that Blu-Ray can provide.
For starters, the theatrical version of the film can be watched in a feature called “Secrets Behind the Red Cloak.” This is a picture-in-picture commentary track that runs the entire length of the film. Featuring the actors and filmmakers, this provides a lot of insight into the entire process and even includes a lot of storyboards, concept art, etc. Despite my thoughts on the film itself, I love seeing the filmmakers get to analyze their own work, and this is something any fan of the film will enjoy.
As far as bonus features outside of the film, there is plenty of material there as well. There is a feature called “Reinvention of Red Riding Hood,” that explores the history of the original story. They refer to their own film as a “bold new landmark of storytelling” in regards to the werewolves, which I find a little ridiculous, but it’s still an interesting feature. There’s also a terrible feature on “Red’s Men” that exists simply to talk about how “hot” the two guys in her love triangle are. After that came my favorite feature, “Making the Score,” which is an 11 minute segment on creating the unique soundtrack to the film. Utilizing all sorts of unusual and creative devices, the composers have crafted a musical backdrop that feels historical and modern all at the same time. This segment provides a fascinating look at how they developed this sound, and how it resonates thematically in the world of the film. Next up was a forty second montage of the effects used for the wolf attack. Then rthere are some casting tapes, really interesting rehearsal footage of three key scenes, and a silly feature that recaps the entire movie in 73 seconds.
Rounding out the set are four deleted scenes, a lame gag reel and a couple of music videos. As for the film itself, it’s presented in 1080p High Def, and it looks even better than you’d expect. The colors are gorgeous in this world, and the actual red cloak that Valerie wears looks amazing in contrast with the whiteness of the snow. The sound is also great, especially with the incredible soundtrack. There is a party sequence where the music is actually a part of the scene, and it’s amazing. I loved listening to the different layers of interesting sound, and the sound mix comes through fantastically.
There is potential for greatness whenever a filmmaker is adapting a great story. This film never reaches that level, and unfortunately, it never had a chance with the approach the filmmakers took to the story. I suppose the film is worth seeing for the beautiful cinematography and interesting soundtrack. On top of that, I didn’t even mention the over-the-top performance by Gary Oldman as a wolf hunter, which is something to see in and of itself. But overall, if you don’t love Twilight, this probably isn’t a film for you. A classic story ruined by corporate thinking, I just can’t bring myself to recommend this one.