Thursday Night Movie Club
Red Riding Hood
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Release Date: 11 March 2011

Director: Catherine Hardwicke
Amanda Seyfried
Gary Oldman
Billy Burke
Shiloh Fernandez
Max Irons
Virginia Madsen
Lukas Haas
Julie Christie
Shauna Kain
Michael Hogan
Adrian Holmes
Cole Heppell
Christine Willes
Michael Shanks
Kacey Rohl
Father Auguste
The Reeve
Madame Lazar
Adrien Lazar
Red Riding Hood movie poster #1 Red Riding Hood movie poster #2
Amanda Seyfried as Valerie in Red Riding HoodRed Riding Hood begins with a flashback sequence. A young Valerie and Peter are playing in the woods. They have trapped a white rabbit in a snare and now they are daring each other to kill the rabbit. Peter wants to set it free. Valerie wants him to kill it. What happens to the rabbit is not directly revealed but the answer is clear as the film progresses.

A case of infidelity leads to a case of mistaken identity which leads to a brutal murder. Red Riding Hood is a retelling of the famous children's story. The place is the village of Daggerhorn in an unnamed European country during the Middle Ages. Valerie (Seyfried) is in love with Peter the woodcutter but her parents have arranged her marriage to Henry (Irons), son of the town's wealthy blacksmith Adrien Lazar (Shanks). Life gets a little complicated as Valerie's older sister Lucy is in love with Henry.

A distraught Lucy heads out to the last place in the village she should be going... the woods. For years the villagers have been paying a monthly tribute to keep the wolf in the woods from attacking. All bets are off after Lucy is brutally shredded by the claws of a large beast.

Gary Oldman as Solomon in Red Riding Hood While the villagers form a posse to hunt the wolf in its lair, local priest Father Auguste fears something evil is taking shape. He sends for help. The villagers head off to the only possible place a wolf might be hiding: a series of caves in the mountains. During the hunt they kill a large, common gray wolf. The village erupts in euphoria being saved from the beast.

A bad situation becomes worse at the arrival of Solomon (Oldman), ace werewolf hunter sanctioned by the Vatican to eradicate monsters whereever they are found. Solomon places the village under martial law ruling with an iron fist. He suspects everyone. That means Everyone! As Solomon explains his justifications for his suspicions, it is clear that he is probably correct. Someone in the village is a werewolf and someone else probably suspects who is the werewolf. No one is safe. Even the slightest infraction lands a villager in a cage to suffer tortures until they confess. Like the similar witch-hunts of the same period, a lot of innocent people are hurt. Solomon does not believe anyone is innocent.

Amanda Seyfried as Valerie  in Red Riding HoodDirector Catherine Hardwicke crafts a suspenseful, moody thriller where nothing is as it seems on the surface. Even though this is a small village, there a plenty of secrets to go around. Hardwicke keeps things simple as clues inevitably leak out. The sun never shines on this idyllic village. Dread lurks around every corner. There is no safety in numbers as the wolf lives in the midst of the people. Hardwicke keeps the suspense level up but does not weigh down the audience with it.

Gary Oldman as Solomon in Red Riding HoodThe violence is rapid-paced. There isn't a lot of quick edits. The wolf itself moves with incredible speed and stealth. After one raid by the wolf, Solomon's troops are seriously depleated. His rage and oncoming madness intensify. Knowing the werewolf is one of the villagers, Solomon stops at nothing to destroy his quarry. If that means assaulting or torturing the villagers, so be it. Oldman sinks his chops into the role of Solomon. Each passing moment, Oldman captures the rage in a man who has himself seen too many horrors.

Of all the villagers, Valerie has it the worst. Both Peter and Henry are the prime suspects. In a key sequence, the werewolf stops his rampage long enough to actually speak to Valerie. The wolf explains that his first victim was unfortunate. It should have been Valerie. Well, that's nice to know. Thank You kind sir. Yikes. When Solomon hears of this, he sets Valerie up for slaughter otherwise known as a trap to catch the wolf. He places a wolf mask over her head and makes her wear her now famous red cape. She is chained up for all of the villagers to see. The wolf is not impressed.

Amanda Seyfried and Gary Oldman in Red Riding HoodIt is not until Red Riding Hood aka Valerie takes her infamous walk through the woods to her grandmother's house does the truth come out. There are indeed many secrets going on. Many of them are right in Valerie's family. Grandmother has a secret. Mother Suzette has a major secret. The secret is revealed when the wolf can speak to Valerie while older sister Lucy is savagely killed. Any audience member paying attention to the fact that Valerie can speak to wolves will immediately identify the wolf in human clothes. However, Hardwicke does such a great job of confusing the issues that the werewolf's true identity will come as a surprise.

Red Riding Hood does an excellent job retelling the story everyone knows. Therefore, the ending will not come as much of a surprise. The wolf gets killed by the huntsman. Oh darn, ruined it! The acting is pretty straight forward with the exception of Oldman. Hardwicke and the screen writers do an excellent job of slowly revealing secrets and there are a lot of them. There are plenty of suspects to go around and many secrets to support these suspicions. The overall atmosphere of the film complements and enhances the evil that lies in all men. Fear the wolf!