tek's rating:

Red Riding Hood (PG-13)
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Caution: potential spoilers, maybe. But not really.

This is, of course, very vaguely based on the familiar folk tale of "Little Red Riding Hood." Actually it's basically just a werewolf movie with a few trappings of that story, but mostly different. Anyway, before it came out, I thought it looked like it could be cool. Then when it did come out, it didn't do very well financially, and certainly not critically. So I was a bit apprehensive, but I wanted to check it out anyway. And eventually I saw it on DVD... and honestly, I don't know what the critics' problem is. It's not a great movie, but IMO it's not bad, either. I liked the story well enough, and it had an awesome soundtrack (well, mostly it's a score), which I eventually bought. And it had good visuals. And, um... it wasn't unscary.

So, anyway, it's clearly set sometime in the distant past, probably around the time the folk tale would have originated. There's this small village, Daggerhorn, whose inhabitants live in fear of a local werewolf, but they apparently have a sort of truce. They leave out an animal sacrifice for it on the full moon, and it leaves them alone. The story starts with a couple of children, Valerie and Peter, who seem to like breaking the rules together, but we don't get to see much of them before the film flashes forward, to when the two of them are young adults. (Valerie is now played by Amanda Seyfried.) They're in love, but it turns out Valerie's mother Suzette (Virginia Madsen) has arranged for her to marry a different young man, named Henry, who I guess has a more profitable trade than Peter (blacksmithing instead of woodcutting; I don't see a huge difference, especially in such a small village, but whatever). Peter and Valerie would like to run away together, but... things get complicated when Valerie's sister, Lucie, is killed by the werewolf.

The local clergyman, Father Auguste, sends for a guy named Father Solomon (Gary Oldman), who is apparently a famous werewolf hunter. But the villagers don't want to wait; they decide to go out and kill the wolf themselves. And they succeed... in killing a wolf. Later, Solomon shows up with his troops, and informs them that the wolf was not a werewolf. They don't believe him, and they hold a celebration over having killed the wolf... and then the werewolf shows up and kills more of them. Oh also, it's not just a full moon, but a blood moon, which Solomon says is the only time, which happens for like a week every thirteen years, when a werewolf's bite can turn someone into a werewolf, instead of just killing them. Anyway... at one point the werewolf corners Valerie and her friend Roxanne, and growls at them... but Valerie can understand what the wolf is saying to her. It wants her to leave Daggerhorn with it.

Of course, she refuses, and the wolf goes away, but it'll be back. There are still a couple nights of the blood moon, so it'll keep trying. Meanwhile, Solomon is desperate to figure out who the wolf actually is. And really, it could be just about anybody. The first suspect Solomon finds is Claude, the halfwit brother of Roxanne. However, I'd say the main three suspects for the movie's viewers, and for Valerie herself, are Peter, Henry, and her grandmother. But the fun (and truly scary) thing is, you just never know. As much as this is a supernatural horror movie, it's a psychological thriller, because you have to wonder about every single character... hell, even if I'd seen someone in the same place as the wolf, fighting the wolf, I couldn't help wondering if, well, there might be more than one werewolf around. (Though I did assume it most likely wasn't anyone we'd actually seen with the wolf.) Even if you could discount some suspects, there were still always plenty of characters (ranging from major to incidental) that it could have been. Btw, Valerie's cape isn't the only thing that's red in this movie; there are also several red herrings. (Yeah, I went there.) And while all this is going on, we have the subplot of Valerie's love for Peter, and the fact that Henry seems like a good guy himself, who doesn't want to force Valerie into marriage. But it's complicated, because of Valerie wanting to do what's best for her family, and Peter wanting to do what's best for Valerie, and no one knowing who the wolf is, and Valerie questioning things about her own fundamental nature, and so forth.

I'm leaving plenty of stuff out, but you get the gist. I don't want to spoil anything, but we do eventually learn who the wolf is, and various plot points (including things I haven't mentioned) get tied together neatly. Really, it's not bad at all.

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