Craig J. Clark — Feb. 21st 2016
Five years ago, I partook of the one werewolf movie that was in theaters, Catherine Hardwicke’s Red Riding Hood. Written by David Leslie Johnson, who also gave the world Orphan and the Clash of the Titans sequel Wrath of the Titans, it takes place in an isolated village surrounded by a foggy, sun-dappled forest sheltering a hungry beast that’s only placated by an animal sacrifice every full moon. Then comes the dreaded “blood moon,” which lasts a whole week and is the only time a werewolf bite can turn somebody into one. Sounds intriguing enough, right? Too bad Johnson chooses to yoke that story to a tedious love triangle centered around vapid, virginal Valerie (Amanda Seyfried), who spends her week of wonders torn between the husky woodcutter’s son she’s loved since they were children (Shiloh Fernandez) and the soulful blacksmith’s son she’s engaged to (Max Irons, son of Jeremy). Any resemblance to the adolescent romance in the Twilight series (the first entry of which Hardwicke directed) is entirely intentional.
Stranded on the sidelines is a host of slumming actors, including Virginia Madsen as Seyfried’s mother, who’s pushing her to marry for money instead of love; Billy Burke as her frequently drunk father; Julie Christie as her grandmother, she of the house whereto the one in the titular riding outfit goes; and Lukas Haas as the petrified local priest who sends for help when the werewolf breaks its pact with the village and kills Seyfried’s older sister. (How this pact was made in the first place never comes up.) Help arrives in the form of fundamentalist werewolf hunter Gary Oldman, who comes complete with a full entourage and an odd little voice that mostly goes away when he gets all shouty (which is often). He even has silver fingernails, which doesn’t seem too practical (for one thing, how do they stay in?), but that’s pretty much par for the course with this film.
In the end, the plot boils down to a medieval Murder, She Wrote with Seyfried trying to suss out who the werewolf is between largely bloodless attacks (the number of times Christie is dangled in front of us as a potential culprit borders on the ludicrous). This wouldn’t be so egregious if everybody weren’t so bloody solemn the whole way through — the notable exception being the furry-themed party they throw when they think they’ve killed the monster. Probably not the best idea with Reverend Killjoy hanging about, but whatever. After the creature has thinned out the cast and had a couple telepathic conversations with Seyfried, the whole shebang leads up to a classic Bond-style “talking villain” scene that couldn’t help but remind me of the one at the end of Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow. Note to screenwriters: If your bad guy has to sit the main character down and explain the whole plot to them, then what you’re writing is a piece of trash, so at least have some fun with it. If you don’t, Red Riding Hood is what you’ll wind up with.