Monday, December 19, 2011

Red Riding Hood.... or how not to waste your Sunday night.

At a first glance this appears to be more of a high-budgeted SyFy original movie than a film for theaters due to the inclusion of Michael Shanks (Dr. Daniel Jackson of Stargate fame) and Michael Hogan (Colonel Saul Tigh from Battlestar Fracktica).  But it’s not.  Which is unfortunate because if it were, my tweeps and I would have fun tearing it to bits on a Saturday night via Twitter.  Since it’s not, you just have to suffer in silence.  Unless you have a blog, in which case you can let everyone know how awful it was after the fact.  Incidentally, the role of father to the tragic Red Riding Hood is played by Billy Burke, father to tragic Bella if you’re into the Twilight thing.  Hm… can anyone say – type casting?  Poor guy.

So here’s the deal.  Valerie, aka Red Riding Hood, aka Red (for our purposes), sneaks out of the house her entire childhood and most of her teen years to see a boy named Peter.  I'm pretty sure this is Peter from the story Peter and the Wolf as this movie tries to weave in as many wolf stories as possible.  Together the two sneak around and hunt rabbits – so romantic!  Until, one day, we find out she is betrothed to someone other than Peter the very same day a wolf attacks and kills her sister. 

Everyone cries, it’s very sad.  Or it should be, these people display very little emotional range for a family that just lost one of its own.  Peter, the rock star lookalike bad boy shows more emo than Red… But anyway... a back story is revealed when we learn that Red’s sister was in love with Red’s new fiancé.  Despite her sister’s death, and her lack of chemistry with Peter, Red is preoccupied with her fiancé vs. Peter dilemma and her mother attempts to comfort her by telling Red that she was secretly in love with someone else when she married Red’s father.  Again, there’s very little emotional weight to either Red or her mother, despite this being somewhat jarring information for a teenager.  Particularly after the death of her sister.

Predictably, all the men of the village go out to hunt the wolf.  Most notably Michael Shanks, so of course I was keen to watch but he bites it 20 minutes into the film.  My reason for paying attention squelched, I had to rely on coffee to keep me awake.  Lots of coffee.  Coffee and tape to pry open my eyelids.

Not particularly devastated that every man she knows is going to hunt the wolf that killed her sister, Red goes to grandmother’s house where she finally receives her infamous red hooded cape.  Grandmother, by the way, is eerily cheery considering her son, red’s father, has just left on a treacherous journey to kill a deadly wolf. 
The men kill a wolf and come home with Shanks body on a cart… which may or may not have provoked me into shouting “Bring out your dead!” from my living room sofa.  More potentially devastating news for a teenager is shrugged off as Red’s mother reveals that Shanks fathered Red’s sister; nary a tear is shed between them but I suppose you can’t have a good mystery with a lot of boohooing about.  Better they all be sociopathic robots with the emotional spectrum of a lobotomized gerbil.  I digress.

Enter Gary Oldman, killer of werewolves, bearer of peculiar accents from uh… Nowhere, Europe.  Colonel Tigh tells Gary to go home because they killed the wolf.  To emphasize this, he shakes the wolf’s head – on a stick - at Gary as if to say ‘ See?  See??’  But no.  Gary doesn’t go.  Instead, we are lead by the nose through Gary’s tale.  Long ago, Gary caught a wolf and hacked off its paw, when he arrived home he found find his wife handless, and so he murdered her thereby killing a werewolf!   Gary believes they are all still vulnerable during the blood moon which lasts three days after the full moon.   Dun dun dun!  Everyone’s vulnerable during a blood moon!  (No, no, no - you have to say it like this: “Dun dun dun!  Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!”) Gary warns them that Wolfie is one of them, living among them. 

So begins the immediate decline of the movie and rapid growth paranoia.  The villagers party through the night, barricaded into their own village.  Everybody, except Gary and his men, get all jiggy with it.  Which is good, seeing Gary get jiggy with it might have done some damage to my cerebral cortex.  I like him, don’t get me wrong, I just don’t want to see him get his groove on (…images of Beethoven shaking his butt… Dracula dirty dancing are infact running through my mind as I write this).  The villagers dance with the wolf- head-stick-thing to primal music and reenact Grimm’s The Three Little Pigs.   Red & Peter dance with other partners very obviously putting on shows for one another in a choreographed medieval style dirty dancing routine.   

As with any love triangle, Fiancé gets jealous and fights with Peter.  Peter threatens to kill Fiancé, then Peter selflessly gives up Red, she chases him, they attempt to have sex, they are interrupted by something inconsequential to the film but not before they are spotted by Fiancé. Run on sentence anyone?  So yes, they attempted to have sex but failed.  Which is really quite sad, because if this were a true horror story –according to the rules - they’d both have to die and the movie would be over.  Oh well.
Suddenly (gasp!) the werewolf breaks out and kills Colonel Saul Tigh (damnit!) right out of the gate.  Wolfie also slices through two more victims before Gary’s men attempt to restrain him with whips while Gary screams “God is stronger!” from his horse.  Repeatedly.  Wolfie manages to break free without much effort, proving Gary wrong.  On a side note: The religious undertones that are plopped into this movie from time to time only deal with the werewolf or witchcraft, making them weak and kind of unnecessary as they selectively ignore something as plain as adultery.

Gary gives an appropriate I told you so speech, while the wolf stops to have a chat with Red and her friend but while Red understands the wolf, her friend only hears growls. Like oh-em-gee, what’s going on?  The wolf tells her to leave with him because she killed rabbits so they are the same.   Uh... ok...  It should have been a chilling moment for the flick, but it's not.  Wolfie says the streets will run red with blood until she goes with him.  This should scare her, but it doesn’t.  I have to say the voice of the wolf doesn’t sound threatening.  Just kinda sexy, which isn’t helpful to the horror aspect of the film.

Red suspects Peter of being Wolfie, but then she suspects her sweetly smiling grandmother.   And now every camera shot with Red in the frame appears to be the wolf coming at her.  This was probably meant to hold the viewer in some level of tension bur really, it’s just tedious.  Sigh.  Fiancé graciously offers to break off the engagement... because *sniffle* he knows she doesn’t want him the way she wants Peter!
Did I mention the whole village is a Feng Shui nightmare of pointy things and sharp edges?  Most of which serve no puprose.  Well it is.  Even on a subconscious level this movie is hard to watch.  This thing takes place almost entirely on sets, rarely outdoors from what I could tell, making it a little claustrophobic.  Also, no matter how much they tromp on the snow, it never disappears or becomes muddy or dirty.  Details, movie people, details!   I digress.  Again.

Gary finds a frightened boy and places him in a baby elephant shaped crock pot because the boy can't give Gary the name of the wolf.  The boy is considered “simple”, so Gary just comes off a cruel as the boy cooks.  In a giant, elephant shaped, not at all comical, crock pot.   Gary also kills one of his own men, who was bitten by the wolf.  As the dead man has a brother in Gary's employ, these acts effectively remove him as the hero and he’s now free to sit and eat raw meat from a carcass with his silver fingernails.  What?  He has metal fingernails?  Yes.  What? 

Her friend tattles to Gary that Red spoke to Wolfie and Red is put in chains. Nonfiancé and Peter bond in their love for Red and make a pact to save her. 

Red’s father also gets in on the rescue party (just so you know he’s still there) but alas he’s arrested.  Grandma pleasantly accuses Fiancé because her other grand daughter was in love with him (red's sister).  He accuses her because he says she smells like the wolf that killed his father.  Finger point much?  This movie is full of: did she?  Did he?  Is it her?  Is it him?  No wait, is it her?  Ugh.   Too much.  You get to a point where you just don’t care... and when Gary puts Red in her cape and a metal pig mask you laugh because this movie has careened out of control, off the horror movie highway into the ridiculous lane without using a turn signal.

Gary leaves her for bait, and we’re all transported back to high school for a moment while the obligatory mean girl gives her the nasty ‘you're too pretty so you deserve it’ diatribe. 

A fire breaks out so that Peter and Nonfiancé can save her.  Nonfiancé picks the lock, Peter gets in a fight with one of Gary's men.  Gary  calls out “Put him in the elephant!”, which isn’t at al humorous, and his men lock Peter up in the elephant, deterring Peter from meeting Nonfiancé and Red with the horses.  When Peter doesn’t show, Red thinks Nonfiance is Wolfie so she takes out her knife!  Then they hear the wolf and have a brief ‘well this is awkward’ moment as she hides her knife again.  Long story short (believe it or not): They flee, Nonfiancé takes an arrow for her.  Gary loses his hand, which is fitting retribution given what he did to his wife.  Wolfie tells her he'll destroy the village if she doesn't go.  Everyone stands up for her, literally - between her and the wolf, including the mean girl.  Wolfie burns his hand er um.. paw on holy ground.  Red is knocked unconscious.  The brother of the dead guy kills Gary.  While unconscious she dreams: Grandmother, what big eyes you have!   To remind us that this is Little Red Riding Hood and not some semi-relious-undertoned-Gary-Oldman-overacting vehicle. 

She wakes and her mother is mildly relieved, as is her way given the fact she’s lost a daughter and her one true love.  Peter, it would seem, made it out of the elephant and is missing, so she gives Nonfiancé a weird kiss on the neck and promptly sets off for grandmother’s house.  Peter meets her in the woods, and as he pleas with her to leave with him so she stabs him and flees.  I have to say, considering she’s just stabbed her childhood friend and would be lover, she’s pretty calm and even when she finally makes it to Grandmother’s house and finds her father in Grandmother's bed with a burned paw.  I mean hand.  Finally, the secret is revealed.  The wolf's genes allow him to speak to his eldest child - as Red's older sister didn't understand him, he knew she was not his child so he killed her – ages ago, at the beginning of the movie, when we were all still wide awake.  As it turned out grandmother figured everything out when Nonfiancé said she stunk, she realized that smell was the smell of her son, and her husband before him; they must have both been werewolves.  So he killed his own mother.  Peter breaks in, like the woodman of the original Little Red Riding Hood story and fights with the father.  When Peter is knocked unconscious or out of the way or back into the plot, she reveals Gary’s silver fingernailed hand, which she had cleverly hidden in her basket and she stabs her father with it.  What?

Sigh… the movie is not over as we learn that Daddy bit Peter and so *meep* he’s going to become a werewolf.  She has visions of leaving with him, her signature red cape streaming dramatically behind her in an inappropriate montage… inappropriate because it should be the end of the freaking movie.  Oh and inappropriate because she killed her father.  And her sister’s dead.  As are several other people from her village.  Together, Peter and Red  sink her father in the lake.  Peter leaves, she says she'll wait.  And still the movie is not over!!

She moves into her grandmother's house.  One night while she’s picking flowers, the werewolf appears.  She smiles coyly at the wolf, it's over.  No it’s not.  The montage returns.  Luckily, though you have the remote so you can turn it off.  Thank you almighty gods of remote control.

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