Just as the Twilight series took a grisly blood splattered genre and ran it through the Hollywood homogenizer, audience hands proverbially cupped to catch the sparkling blobs of cinematic cheese spat out of it, director Catherine Hardwicke’s Red Riding Hood takes a Brothers Grimm fairytale and turns it into a weirdly modernized version with a gooey atmosphere that feels like a costume rave party gone wrong.

In a twisted way it sort of makes sense, given Hardwicke directed the first Twilight movie in 2008 and the aftertaste of that soul-soiling experience has lingered on her creative palette liked a cheap and nasty red.

Like Twilight, Red Riding Hood is in essence about a pretty young thing pursued by two disconsolate underwear models. Unlike Twilight this movie has Gary Oldman on the payroll, who is either badly out of form or unable to invest his heart into multiplex fodder as meek and insipid as this, or both.

Screenwriter David Leslie Johnson fleshes out the Brothers Grimm storyline into a clumsy howl-dunit based in a small town where one of the residents is a werewolf. Famous cross-bearing werewolf hunter Father Solomon (Oldman) rides into town, hollering like a half-pissed madman about his dead ex-wife and her private after hours existence. On werewolf matters he is well qualified to speak but prefers to shout, and, once the town slays a local wolf and pronounces the situation case: closed, he warns that the real demon still lurks among them — and of course he’s right.

Amanda Seyfried is Valerie, the bright-eyed star of the show whose grandmother presents her a lovely red outfit. The wolf has a special affection for Valerie and her white witch like demeanor, so she slips into super sleuth mode to try and unveil its human identity.

The sets have the low-rent artifice of a decently budgeted porn movie; the cinematography by Mandy Walker (who shot another ghastly production: Baz Luhrmann’s Australia) only emphasizes their stodgy sound stage vibe. The performances? The plot? The direction? Languid and feeble, a modernized tale burdened by ageless vices: lack of spirit, lack of imagination, flaccid storytelling.

Red Riding Hood’s Australian theatrical release date: March 24, 2011.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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