“Red Riding Hood” gives the Brothers Grimm tale the teen “Twilight” treatment with twist: The big bad (were)wolf stalking the red-robed beauty could be anyone in the medieval woodland village, even grandma herself.
Written by David Leslie Johnson, the fairy tale update now has a Red Scare paranoid element like the Rod Serling metaphorical “Twilight Zone” episode with neighbors on Americana Maple Street suspicious of secret space aliens living amongst them. Done with deadly seriousness, “Red Riding Hood” has Director Catherine Hardwicke (of the first “Twilight” film) choosing her heartthrob cast with perfection: Amanda Seyfried as Valerie (aka Red Riding Hood), Shiloh Fernandez (Peter, the woodcutter), Max Irons (son of Jeremy, as Henry, the rich suitor), plus Julie Christie (in golden dreadlocks, as a hip old granny).
However, the scene stealer is Gary Oldman, chewing the scenery and everybody else in the Van Helsing role of Father Solomon, the hunter of evil incarnate. He charges in soon after the teen soap opera love triangle is established and the start of the werewolf attacks. He’s also there to warn us of the one-bite infection theory, the one we all know from the Lon Chaney Jr. movies.
Amazingly, it works. Hardwicke juggles soap opera, suspense and paranoia well, with a hint of sex and horror. In fact, she even works in the “Little Red Riding Hood” prerequisites (“What big eyes, ears, teeth you have?” and stones in the wolf’s stomach).
But, “Red Riding Hood” passed the ultimate acid test: My cynical 17-year-old daughter enjoyed it. And she hated the “Twilight” movies.
Though the movie is set up for a sequel, it’s doubtful they’ll do one. “Red Riding Hood II” would be too much.