The Twilight films have a great deal to answer for.
The teen romances starring Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart have whetted an appetite for fantastical adventure stories with tortured young heroes and heroines, and spawned one abominable and fangless spoof, Vampires Suck.
Now, director Catherine Hardwicke, who brought the first Twilight film to the screen, slavishly follows the same template in her reworking of the classic fairytale, written for the screen by David Johnson.
Thus we have a beautiful heroine torn between two potential suitors, one of whom might be a werewolf, the other a brooding Brit; Billy Burke in a thankless supporting role as her protective father; sweeping aerial shots of lush forests; and a rock soundtrack to underscore the lingering glances and angst of the protagonists.
If Red Riding Hood didn’t pander to the 12A certificate, complete with a chaste fumble in the hay barn, there is potential here for a bloody horror story.
Yet, every time Hardwicke’s film threatens to veer into dark, unsettling territory, it’s sweetened with a drizzle of sickly sweet romance and heartfelt outpourings such as, “The only life I want is with you.”
Valerie (Amanda Seyfried) lives with her father Cesaire (Billy Burke), mother Suzette (Virginia Madsen) and older sister in a village plagued by a werewolf.
Every full moon, the locals tether a pig to a stake as a sacrifice and lock their doors.
Away from the bloodshed, Valerie is in love with best friend Peter (Shiloh Fernandez) but must marry Henry Lazar (Max Irons), whose family fortune provides the best chance of a rosy future.
“I don’t feel like it’s my wedding. I feel like I’m being sold,” Valerie laments to her grandmother (Julie Christie), who lives in a cabin in the woods.
When the beast claims the life of Valerie’s sister under a blood red moon, renowned werewolf hunter Father Solomon (Gary Oldman) vows to unmask the lycanthrope in their midst.
Red Riding Hood uses the familiar story as a hook for a predictable menage a trois.
Employing logic, the identity of the werewolf is evident before the big reveal, when Valerie must mature from damsel in distress to architect of her own fate.
The fairytale’s iconic exchange - “Grandmother, what big eyes you have!” - is consigned to a nightmare sequence, eliciting unintentional giggles as we await grandmother’s payoff lines.
Rosy-lipped Seyfried provides a nice visual contrast to her two tall, dark and handsome suitors and Oldman merrily chews scenery as the zealous werewolf hunter, who justifies his tortuous methods by hissing, “A man bitten is a man cursed.”
Cast look good close-up and manage to keep straight faces as they deliver some terrible dialogue (“I could eat you up!”)
We’re not so strong-willed and snort with derision into our popcorn.
By Damon Smith
:: NO SWEARING :: SEX :: VIOLENCE :: RATING: 5/10
Released: April 15 (UK & Ireland), 99 mins