Oh Red Riding Hood. There was so much potential there. You have a great cast that features Gary Oldman, Amanda Seyfried, and a couple of young hotties that include the son of Jeremy Irons. You have that whole fairy-tale period-piece feel to you (though exactly what period, and where, are you supposed to take place? This is neither verbally mentioned nor evident in the scenery. Did you blow all the budget on catering and forget to hire a historian to glance over the script?) And let’s not forget what’s best of all: you’re one of the most interesting of the “traditional” fairy tales that we all know and love. On the surface it’s a simple story about minding your parents and not being thrown off your chosen path by strangers. However, at its heart Little Red Riding Hood is sexual, bloody, and disturbing (as are many of the original fairy tales before they were relegated to the realm of “children’s stories”). So Catherine Hardwicke had a lot to work with coming into this horror-tinged remake. And yet, somewhere along the line, it didn’t quite live up to its promise.
Perhaps it was my fault for expecting too much. When I hear that Gary Oldman is in a remake of one of my favourite fairy tales, I expect quality across the board. And to be fair, there were good things to be found. The snowy setting was a nice touch that helped make the red riding hood a visual star of its own. There were a couple of honest-to-goodness seat-jumping parts, which is always delicious in such a film. And the music was quite good (see the videos below). But overall it was cheesy, so terribly, terribly cheesy. I can enjoy a cheesy film when I’m prepared for it. But when I’m looking for a romantic horror along the lines of Bram Stoker’s Dracula or Interview with the Vampire, cheesy is disappointing. As I watched Red Riding Hood I discovered that I was straining to force myself to enjoy it more than I actually was. Once I realized that it just wasn’t going to be the film that I had hoped, I was able to let go and enjoy what was onscreen. Such as the soundtrack to the film, of which I am sharing my top three songs.
1.) Brian Reitzell – Towers of the Void
You might recognize Brian Reitzell as the guy who did the music for several Sofia Coppola films. I’ll give Catherine Hardwicke credit for having a good ear when it comes to her movies’ soundtracks, as Brian Reitzell is an excellent if underused choice in the movie biz. In regards to Red Riding Hood, while the rest of the score worked well enough with the film, this is the only track that I find myself wanting to listen to without the visuals. It’s eerie and cold, and the delicate reverberations of the strings remind me of melting droplets of snow falling from branch to ground. Very appropriate for a desolate mountain fairy tale.
2.) Fever Ray – The Wolf
Ooooo, I’d been waiting for this track for months! I looked for it as soon as the first trailers ran for this movie last winter, but sadly it was not available at the time. Now, however, we finally have it! This song speaks to what I wanted this film to be: raw, animalistic, sexual, powerful, and dark. Sadly, not even the scene in which it was utilized provided even half of that. (Pig masks, why did it have to be pig masks?!?) Still, I get shivers whenever I hear it. If nothing else came from this film but this song, I would still be a happy bunny.
3.) Alex Gonzalez & Brian Reitzell – Just a Fragment of You
The other Fever Ray song used in the film was good, but as soon as I saw that Alex Gonzalez of M83 worked on this track, I knew it was a winner. To be fair, I adore M83, as they gave me one of my top albums of all time (otherwise known as one of my “desert island albums” [Saturdays = Youth, for the curious]) so I was biased going in. But I think that even the uninitiated will find something beautiful and special in this track. It takes the eerie coldness from the first track that I shared and softens it, stretches it like taffy into a dream-like state of bliss. Like all the best ethereal music, I feel as though I could swim in an ocean of this sound. It’s gorgeous, and a surprising bonus gem from this film’s soundtrack.
So there you have it, dear reader. Personally I dislike movie reviews in which I am told which films to see and which films to skip. There is merit in this one, just as there is merit in pretty much any film. See it if you wish, and perhaps if you are forewarned of the impending cheese you will enjoy it even more than I was able to. Had I known then what I know now… Ah well, at least there are some kick-ass songs to take away from the experience.