(Just for clarity’s sake, there will be spoilers ahoy, because you’re not going to see this movie as it is SO awful)
Seriously, it is a REALLY bad film. Once upon a time there was a good script, but I think it was killed by a committee whose sole aim in life was to make something in their own image. The only two glimpses of the good script are at the end of the movie, one the “what big X you have grandmother” scene, and the other which was the twist to the whole movie – which had never been foreshadowed so was less of a twist and more of a “HUH???”.
Anyway, the director, Catherine Hardwicke, managed to get poor performances out of every actor in the movie. Gary Oldman, who is at his most entertaining when chewing the set, provided an incredibly wooden performance and I was much relieved when he eventually died. The pouting underwear models were wooden and unbelievable – as was pretty much everyone on set. Let’s get into the breakdown of everything.
Quick story synopsis – There is a village, and for the first time in a couple of generations the “wolf” has killed a villager. The villagers decide to go and hunt down the wolf and their priest calls a witch-finder. No hilarity ensures. The body-count builds, but no one seems to care much, and eventually after the witch-finder is dead, we discover who the wolf is (werewolf), and everyone lives confusedly ever after.
The movie is set in a village, in the middle of some mountains – it looks a bit like the German Alps or Scandinavia. Given the period(ish) clothing and basic living conditions, I would suggest that it was the Dark Ages, or perhaps if generous the Middle Ages. Everyone was surprisingly clean, with perfect hair, teeth and skin. No one was sick, no one was disabled from injury and everything was clean (they even washed their hands). When it snowed, they didn’t put warmer clothes on. I do get that people who live in cold climates have a different sense of what is cold and what is not cold, but their breath didn’t fog and there was no mud after the snow was trampled into the ground. It wasn’t really believable.
So, with the whining about the unbelievability of the set up out of the way, let’s move to the story itself. Now Valerie (Red Riding Hood herself) has a really bad day. Her love interest tells her that he’s just found out that she’s now betrothed to marry the other underwear model. They decide to run away together, but then the church/alarm bell sounds and everyone returns to town. Valerie’s sister has been killed by the wolf, and there is much wailing. Afterwards, while they are preparing the body (Valerie, her mother, and Valerie’s friends) of her sister for burial (which never features in the film), Valerie’s betrothed comes with his family to pay their respects. Valerie climbs the stairs to the loft of the cottage and retreats. Her mother follows her and they talk about how important it is that Valerie marries this underwear model than the other one, because this one has more money, and how the mother didn’t marry the man she loved either, and that’s just the way it is.
This is pretty much the end of the dead sister plot device. No one is sad in this film when someone dies. There are some immediate tears, but life goes on and a couple of hours later people are partying, working, whatever again like the dead person never existed. The townsmen go off to kill the wolf, believing that it lived in a nearby extensive cave system, when they return with a wolf corpse (and the dead body of the betrothed’s father – again briefly touched upon death, just another plot device), they throw a party. The witch-finder turns up just before the party, tells everyone that he knows that the wolf is not yet dead because his wife was once a werewolf and he had to kill her to save himself and his children, and then he wanders off with his army while the party is prepared.
It’s more of a rave than a party, and if I EVER find the choreographer of the dancing in this movie I will stab them repeatedly. The love interest is off dancing with another woman (after telling Valerie that they should go their separate ways), and Valerie is upset. So she grabs another girl and joins in the dancing. It’s a cross between the lambada and stately court dancing and is truly awful. Faux-lesbianism is incredibly wrong on many levels, and this movie doesn’t make it any more right. With a witch-finder in the village, I’m sure nothing else would attract his attention more than two women apparently dancing sexually together.
The wolf turns up, savages a few villagers, quite a few soldiers and then escapes. During this the village idiot (yes, they even had one of those) is suspected of knowing who the wolf is, and he’s captured and tortured. His sister (because apparently they didn’t have parents), goes to the witch-finder to bargain for his release. She gives him all her money (which isn’t much) and when he isn’t impressed offers her body to him. He’s still unimpressed so she offers information “about a witch”, specifically that Valerie can communicate with the wolf. Once Valerie is captured, the informant goes back and demands to see her brother, and she’s shown him crumpled on a bed of straw. We never find out if he is alive or dead, and again some minutes later the plot-device is discarded and everyone moves on.
Death as a plot-device certainly doesn’t endear me to any of the characters or the movie in general. Oddly, perhaps, I am more likely to engage with characters who experience the full range of human emotion, including grief that family or friends have died. Even shock that a massive werewolf is bounding around the village would be a good start.
This movie could have gone places. It could have been a great feminist movie about a woman taking a stand against the kyriarchy and living independently despite the unfriendliness of the world (does anyone ever wonder WHY Red Riding Hood’s grandmother lives out in the forest away from the village?). It could have been about a woman (or group of women) rewriting the rules of their society in order to make their lives fairer despite the wolves – because in the end Valerie ends up killing the wolf.
It could have been good, but it really wasn’t.