Staying awake for the entirety of Red Riding Hood, now available on Blu-ray, is an endurance test deserving of some kind of reward. What that reward should be, I have no idea. Maybe some nudity from leading lady Amanda Seyfried after the end credits, tagged on as a merciful Easter Egg? No such luck with this PG-13 epic bore. Catherine Hardwicke, director of the first Twilight movie, was unable to breathe life into the woefully underdeveloped script by David Johnson.
Red Riding Hood attempts to stretch the classic fairy tale Little Red Riding Hood into an hour and forty minute long werewolf movie. That’s not necessarily a bad idea, but the filmmakers managed to do nearly everything wrong. The story takes place in the village of Daggerhorn, a snow-covered CGI haven whose residents live in fear of attacks by a monstrous wolf. In fact, the townspeople sacrifice animals in order to save people from falling victim to the wolf.
No real attempt is made establish who these characters are – they just sort of exist. I almost felt like I had missed the beginning of the movie. The characters are so thin, it’s a wonder the filmmakers expected the audience to connect with them in any way. Valerie (Amanda Seyfried) is preparing for an arranged marriage to the rich man’s son, Henry (Max Irons). But she is really in love with the proletarian Peter (Shiloh Fernandez). Why should we care about these people? The movie does not provide many answers to that question. To be honest, I found myself wishing the wolf would just decimate the entire town.
After the wolf kills Valerie’s sister, the townspeople try to hunt down the beast. Father Solomon (Gary Oldman) rides into town to offer his assistance. Though not apparent to the townspeople, Solomon knows the true nature of their foe: the wolf is really a werewolf. I couldn’t spoil this movie if I tried, as the plot is so muddled that I barely could make sense of it. Everyone in Daggerhorn is a suspect as Valerie attempts to determine the identity of the werewolf. Even Valerie’s own grandmother (Julie Christie) is a possibility. But it’s all a mess, with crappy CGI and direct-to-video production design. The acting is lifeless and the whole enterprise is simply one gigantic waste of time and money.
Red Riding Hood looks okay on Blu-ray, though I wouldn’t dream of recommending it as a demo disc. Though not the fault of the 1080p high definition transfer, the entire movie looks a little soft and hazy. I guess this was by design, an intentional choice by the cinematographer. Colors are vivid, especially the iconic riding hood worn by Valerie. Black crush is a minor issue during the darkest scenes, of which there are many. Fire and candle-lit scenes are impressive, with everything bathed in an attractive golden light.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is a little more impressive. There is a great deal of effective contrast between the quiet scenes that dominate the movie and the sound effects-laden wolf-attack sequences. The rear channels spring into action during these scenes, providing the only real excitement in the movie. Dialogue is clear (though not worth paying attention to). The atmospheric score, one of the only other highlights of the production, is nicely spread out over the soundfield. Unusual instrumentation and ambient effects are well placed, utilizing the various channels very well. Though hardly a reason to invest your time or money in this turd of a movie, the mix is the best element.
Special features include a picture-in-picture commentary with director Catherine Hardwicke, and actors Amanda Seyfried, Shiloh Fernandez, and Max Irons. This feature, called “Secrets Behind the Red Hood,” also incorporates behind-the-scenes footage and on-set interviews with other actors in the film. It all works well, as the actor’s comments are far more interesting and entertaining than anything in the movie itself. There is about a half hour of featurettes that shed some light on the production. A few deleted scenes and a lame gag reel add little of value. It should be noted Red Riding Hood is presented both in its original theatrical cut as well with an alternate ending not seen in theaters.