Review: Red Riding Hood

by Emily Rems

The premise of Twilight director Catherine Hardwicke’s latest supernatural-teen-girl drama, opening tomorrow, was so delicious and dark, it seemed destined for success. A re-imagining of the iconic Red Riding Hood fairy tale, the film casts It girl Amanda Seyfried as Valerie, an older, more sexually adventurous version of the little girl with the scarlet cloak, and gives her a juicy love triangle between a strapping woodsman (Shiloh Fernandez) and a well-to-do arranged fiancée (Max Irons) to grapple with before a string of grisly werewolf attacks shifts her focus to trying to save her embattled village.

In theory, the flick has something for everyone: a PG-13 rating for all the Twi-hards; a bodice-ripping love story centering on a relatable, independent young woman for the romance lovers; and a big CGI wolf leaping around and severing limbs for the action/genre horror set. With all that going for it, it should be fun for the whole family. But in trying to be everything to everyone, the result is far less that the sum of its parts. Barricaded in by a stage-y, claustrophobic set that looks lifted from your regional Ren faire, the cast is further shackled with stilted, overly-formal dialogue, plot points that pull back on the sex and violence just when things are starting to heat up (in an effort to maintain that precious PG-13 one would assume), and an awkward story arc that requires more and more clunky exposition as the tale unfurls.

There are definitely moments when the crackerjack supporting cast—most notably Gary Oldman as werewolf hunter Father Solomon and Julie Christie as Valerie’s wonderfully witchy grandmother—succeed in breathing life into this terminally stiff cinematic world. And a fiery festival scene scored by the brilliant Fever Ray was pure pleasure to watch. But not even the contributions of these heavy hitters could save Red Riding Hood once it lost its way. [Emily Rems]

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