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In a medieval village a beautiful young girl falls for an orphaned woodcutter, much to her family's displeasure. When her sister is killed by the werewolf that prowls the dark forest surrounding their village, the people call on a famed werewolf hunter to help them kill the wolf. As the death toll rises with each moon, the girl begins to suspect that the werewolf could be someone she loves. Panic grips the town as she discovers that she has a unique connection to the beast--one that inexorably draws them together, making her both suspect...and bait.
This is not your grandmother's Red Riding Hood. There's a basket of goodies not exactly the edible kind, a sweet grandma, a winsome young lass in a beautiful red hood, and a Big Bad Wolf. But there the similarity ends. This Red Riding Hood is shot through the lens of the Twilight films--for wide appeal to the tween and teen audiences, and definitely not a bedtime story for the little ones. Helmed by Twilight director Catherine Hardwicke, Red Riding Hood bears a lot of the moody trademarks of the vampire series. Valerie Amanda Seyfried, the plucky girl in the stunning cape, lives in a tiny medieval village whose geography is not specified--it's just very mountainous and remote. Valerie's heart belongs to her childhood friend Peter Shiloh Fernandez, but as Red Riding Hood opens, she learns she has been betrothed to Henry Max Irons. As if that love triangle weren't enough, it seems a dangerous wolf--or is it werewolf?--has been terrorizing the town for years, and its killing sprees have intensified. When the townsfolk kill a wolf, they think they have finally freed their town from tyranny, and throw a giant bacchanal--like Burning Man in the snow. But then Father Solomon Gary Oldman, in wickedly good form appears on the scene to tell the villagers they've killed only a gray wolf--not, in fact, the werewolf he knows is the true villain.
So the romantic pulls of Valerie, Peter, and Henry play out with a backdrop of true chills and mystery. The atmosphere created by Hardwicke, along with production designer Thomas E. Sanders and cinematographer Mandy Walker, is perfect for a goose-bumpy horror story with teen hearts caught in the balance. The set design of the village, especially, is rich with detail--even the trees in the surrounding forest seem to have branches made of threatening spikes. Seyfried is willful, passionate, and perfect as Valerie, and easily anchors a film that could have spun out. Other standouts include Virginia Madsen, Valerie's mother who has a dark secret in her own past, and Julie Christie as Valerie's rather peculiar grandmother. All Twilight fans, and those who love a good tale of star-crossed or perhaps full-moon-crossed lovers will enjoy Red Riding Hood. Just don't go walking in those big bad woods alone. --A.T. Hurley