March 17, 2011

A Suitably Dark Take on a Classic

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Set in the deep, dark forests of Norway in a self contained village, the red-hooded blonde bombshell emerges — caught in a predictable love triangle and a family with more than one hidden secret. If you haven’t gotten your fill of melodramatic teenage angst from the Twilight Saga and are looking for a new fantastical setting to relive the same old story, Red Riding Hood is a must see. More than half the tickets sold for the movie will undoubtedly be to teenage boys (or men if there’s a difference), ogling at Amanda Seyfried, who plays the main character Valerie. And, well, she does look fabulous in a confused and desperate sort of way. So since I can’t give you too many other reasons to go see the movie, maybe this is enough this time.

While Valerie is busy being in love with Peter (Shiloh Fernandez), an orphaned woodcutter who has been the object of her affection nearly her whole life who she plans on running away with some day, her life comes crashing down around her. Typical, right? Amidst the lovers’ wild plans for escape from the small village where they have grown up together, Valerie learns that her parents recently arranged for her to marry Henry (Max Irons), a handsomer (in my opinion) boy from a wealthy family.

The drama escalates when the pervasive scare of a terrifying wolf that haunted the village in the past is resurrected by the shocking death of Valerie’s sister. Only after her death does Valerie discover the truth about her sister’s feelings for Henry and her mother’s motivation for barring her sister from marriage with him. The juicy life of Valerie’s mother is revealed in an eye-opening moment where the seemingly perfect family’s dark history is exposed. With the ominous threat of the werewolf looming over the village, the twists continue.

Pandemonium sweeps through the streets — or dirt common area — of the village as a priest from a neighboring village comes to provide insight on the beast’s attack. In a Salem Witch Trial-like atmosphere he announces the beast is someone amongst them — a villager transformed who has, for years, haunted the townspeople. Except this time it has come for blood. The panic that ensues is entertaining and frightening to say the least, engulfing the viewer in an all-out hunt for the werewolf and ridiculous suspicion of every neighbor, family and lover. In a sequence of events that involve Valerie conversing with the wolf and then being accused by her own sister of being a witch, she essentially becomes wolf bait.

The identity of the true wolf is the must-solve mystery- which I can tell you is entirely unpredictable, despite many reasonable predictions. The intensity and fun of the mystery in such a ridiculous setting of an all out panic and Ithaca-like snow is guiltily enjoyable.

It must be noted that the Twilight comparisons run deep, a fact that is not surprising since the movie shares director Catherine Hardwicke with the vampire-obsessed sensation. Between the two boys, Peter and Henry, a united mission in their mutual quest to save Valerie from the grip of the terrible beast (think Jacob in werewolf form) is all too familiar. At the same time, the concept of fighting for her love is entertaining and riveting anyway.

I won’t spoil the somewhat unresolved ending, but will say that, overall, the flashback to the Red Riding Hood tale of youth did make for some amusement. The mystery was both engaging and totally unpredictable. And I suppose, ultimately, the classic love story and Twilight reference didn’t entirely backfire. If you are really up for a mystery thriller and a bit of cheesy romance, or if you just think Amanda Seyfried is hot, check out Red Riding Hood over break. But, I definitely wouldn’t see it twice.

Original Author: Alice Cope