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At the Movies: Red Riding Hood

2011 April 22

It is no secret, to this or any section of the internet, that I love werewolves. Like, really love werewolves. I love werewolves with a fiery burning passion that glows with an embarrassing ardour. I’ve been into werewolves since I was old enough to pick up books about them. When I doodle mindlessly, it’s snarling werewolf faces that I draw by default, and when I draw to relax, the things I find easiest and most therapeutic to draw are werewolves. I love the twisted, terrifying combination of human and wolf anatomy. I like to draw thick, maned necks and sharp, curved teeth. I like to draw hand-paws, half human and half wolf, and I like to draw big, burning eyes and long, soft ears.

I hasten to add that I’m not a furry.

Poster for Red Riding Hood - a white blonde long-haired young woman (Amanda Seyfried) in a bright red cloak runs through a dark forest. Image from Wikimedia Commons, film copyright Warner Bros.Werewolves are the greatest thing ever. They’re great, big, vicious monsters that will pull a person to shreds with their claws, and yet can disguise themselves very effectively as the thing they prey on to hide amongst them. There’s lots of story potential lurking in the legend of the lycanthrope. They’re transformation, liberation, sexuality, secrets, puberty, forbidden passion, rage, hunger and loneliness all at once. The idea of a human that can literally turn into a terrifying predator and go on a rampage has been inherent in legends and folklore since before we could write, probably because of the storytelling and thematic potential in such a creature. What can’t you do with a werewolf? (Still not a furry.)

So I went to see Red Riding Hood because, well, it’s a werewolf film and I have this biological imperative when it comes to werewolf films, and also because I was interested to see what they’d do with them. It’s directed by Catherine Hardwicke, also responsible for the heinous pile of shite that was Twilight, which made me cautious – but I still wanted to see what threads of the werewolf myth would be re-spun for the Twilight generation. I’m all for innovative takes. And, you know, with all that potential behind the werewolf, surely they’d find something fun to run with, right?


Wrong, wrong, wrong, oh god, wrong. I didn’t set my bar particularly high in the first place because, you know, Twilight (do I really need to go into why I don’t like that franchise? Really?) but Red Riding Hood neatly limboed right underneath.

Still from Red Riding Hood showing Amanda Seyfried, a young white blue eyed woman, looking cautious and tense in a bright red woollen hood; it is snowing in the background***I suppose there’d better be a spoiler warning here.***

The setting is what you’d expect: pseudo-Medieval village in the middle of an unrealistically spiky forest, with an insulting gender dimorphic, binary society. The characters are nothing more than pages from TV Tropes printed off and pasted onto cardboard cut-outs. The dialogue is emotionless tedious drivel that I’ve seen beaten in artistry by ten-year-olds writing about their lunchboxes and the plot wouldn’t know what “innovation” meant if the OED definition was carved into the side of its face with a screwdriver.

I don’t know about you, but I am hopeless – absolutely hopeless – at being bored. I get violent. It’s a dreadful personality flaw, and really I should be more patient, but if I find myself stuck doing, watching or listening to something that bores me, I get enraged to the point of being pugnacious.

Half an hour in, and I was seriously considering starting a fight in the auditorium.

It’s as simplistic and colourful as a child’s toy. I know it’s aimed at the prepubescent, hormonal tweenagers that take Twilight as seriously as people take their religious texts, but it’s so monodimensional that I found myself Photoshopping in new, imaginary dimensions just to keep myself from falling asleep.

When can we all get as bored as I am of this heterocentric one-girl-two-guys trope? The story, instead of revolving around something interesting and mutable (like, say, werewolves), revolved around the personality vacuum that passed as the lead character (Amanda Seyfried being fought over by HER ONE TRUE LOVE and HER FINANCIALLY VIABLE FIANCÉ (Shiloh Fernadez and Max Irons). Neither of whom was a werewolf. And neither was she. It was like the bloody werewolf was an inconvenient distraction from the real “meat” of the Fisher Price plot.

It did, however, keep me guessing, if just because I couldn’t believe how intellect-insultingly bland it was. “Ooh, the werewolf is going to be her One True Love boy,” I thought, initially. “It’ll be an exploration of forbidden passion and how lust can turn you into a monster.” A well-trodden, predictable and dreadfully slut-shaming path, but at least it was werewolf-centric.

But it wasn’t.

Disappointed, I then thought, “Okay, it’ll be her grandmother, and it’ll be a sisters-doing-it-for-themselves female sexuality tribal-loyalties thing. Look, they’ve even colour-coded her, her mum and her grandma in transcendental Virgin Mary blue!” But no. No, nothing that complex or potentially interesting from a feminist perspective.

It was, in fact, neither of these. The werewolf part of the plot – and I have no idea why I’m being so careful not to spoil it for you – chose the most boring, incidental and lazy option that it could possibly find, and didn’t even bother meshing it into the love-triangle schtick. It was Scotch-taped on like an afterthought, as if just to get a bit of mileage out of the “STAY AWAY FROM ME I AM BAD FOR YOU” unattainable-boy routine that made bloody Twilight so popular.

And after all that, there was only one rampage! It was a good rampage, however, because there was lots of the werewolf smashing stuff, biting people’s arms off and leaping across rooftops – but there was no blood. In fact, this was the most bloodless werewolf film I have ever seen. It was about as horrific and monstrous as a Mr Men book. I felt betrayed. But more than betrayal, I felt pity. Perhaps they didn’t know how to make fake blood? I considered writing to the director and sending her my tried-and-tested recipe for realistic fake blood, but then realised that this might encourage her to make more films and no-one needs that.

Pretty werewolf, though, if a bit plasticine-y. And there was Gary Oldman being a fiendish, villainous priest, and that’s definitely something I can get behind in an extremely visceral sense.

The artist would like to apologise for the lack of illustrations accompanying this review. The reasons for this are twofold: firstly, he is going on holiday tomorrow morning. Secondly, he doesn’t think Miranda would ever forgive him for just filling an entire article with werewolves doing random things, like ironing.


  • It has a nice werewolf in
  • Gary Oldman is on Level 5 Ham and god help me but I’d do him lopsided
  • The soundtrack is pretty lush


  • You could make a better, more engaging story with a set of MegaBlocks dragons
  • Angela Carter already did the Red Riding Hood theme a thousand times better with The Company Of Wolves
  • It makes Twilight look like a seminal feminist masterpiece
  • Watch Dog Soldiers instead

Right! That’s it for us until after Easter and the bloody Royal Wedding. We’re taking a quick holiday breather, but we’ll be back after the Bank Holidays, following on from this review, with a week of fairytale-themed posts! See you on the other side…

8 Responses leave one →
  1. April 22, 2011

    I love werewolf films in the same way as you. I will now not watch this film, I hope you feel that even though you wasted your own time you have saved mine. Bless you.

    On the point of boredom though – I just drift of into another realm in my mind, I would have probably fell asleep!

    • Markgraf permalink
      April 23, 2011

      Lola, I will happily sacrifice an hour+ of my time so that fellow werewolf fans don’t have to sit through what I sat through. I’m selfless like that.

      It’s so sad – there’s no transformation scenes (usually my favourite bit) in this, and the werewolf does look quite fun – he’s big and chunky, but strangely thin in the middle. Big paws. Takes people’s arms off. Sigh.


  2. April 23, 2011

    One of my friends is a massive Red Riding Hood geek, but I think even she is going to struggle to get through this movie.

    Love The Company of Wolves and American Werewolf in London, but I’ve never seen Dog Soldiers.

    • Markgraf permalink
      April 24, 2011

      Dog Soldiers is absolute climatic gold and I’d defend it to my last breath. Definitely check it out if you love your monster movies, but especially check it out if you like small-budget, high-skill indie flicks. It’s a beauty.

  3. April 24, 2011

    I’m impressed you managed to stay awake through this, even inventing my own dimensions for the characters left me in dire need of punching myself in the face every five or ten minutes for excitement.

    Strange that I walked out of Sucker Punch but not this, though. I must have been feeling particularly self-punishing that day!

    • Markgraf permalink
      April 24, 2011

      I still have no idea why I didn’t walk out of Sucker Punch. Grueling masochism? Anyway, I wish I had done.

  4. April 25, 2011

    Even I didn’t like this, and I’m a pretty easy audience. I’m arranging a good werewolf movie night for my younger friends so I can make them all watch Company of Wolves cause none of them have even heard of it.

  5. Michelle permalink
    May 7, 2011

    I wish someone would tell me why Twilight is so bad or awful? I haven’t read the books or seen the films. Are they THAT awful?

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