Making the Grades
If this film has an eerie familiarity to Twilight, don’t be surprised. Director Catherine Hardwicke was behind both. And though the setting differs by a few hundred years, the tale and production are much the same, as are some of the actors.
Unlike the morose Belle, Valerie (Amanda Seyfried) lives in a medieval village terrorized by a werewolf during every full moon. For two generations, the townsfolk have managed to keep the animal at bay by sacrificing their best livestock on an altar built for the beast. Then all that changes when Valerie’s older sister Lucie (Alexandria Maillot) is savagely clawed to death. Following the wolf’s attack, the men form a hunting party and go in search of the animal, thus putting more lives in danger.
But, the loss of her sister isn’t the only challenge for Valerie. Although she’s in love with the woodcutter Peter (Shiloh Fernandez), her parents (Virginia Madsen and Billy Burke who plays Belle’s father in the previously mentioned franchise) intend to marry her off to the blacksmith Henry (Max Irons). Wedding plans are put on hold however when Father Solomon (Gary Oldman) is summoned to the village by the local priest (Lukas Hass) who hopes His Eminence will invoke his religious powers to protect the people. Yet rather than bringing comfort to the frightened villagers, Solomon bears bad news, revealing to the populace that the beast resides among them, human by day, werewolf by night.
Suddenly suspicions soar as everyone looks at their neighbors with questioning eyes. Meanwhile, the anguished love story resumes. Valerie is heartbroken when Peter tells her he’s not good for her. Henry confesses his love and tries to win her affections. She is torn between two men who seem unreasonably smitten with her. (Heard this all before?)
The script similarities to the aforementioned franchise might be tolerated but for the cheesy bits that weave their way into the dialogue including the famous line "Grandma, what big eyes you have." Other wolfish folklore also shows up in the movie with references to stories like The Three Little Pigs and Peter and the Wolf.
Although Valerie’s friends are a fickle bunch, taunting and turning her over to the authorities one minute and defending her from certain death in the next, they aren’t the only concern parents may have with this new version of the classic fairytale. Valerie’s passions lead her to a romp in the hay that stops just short of disrobing. Later however, a similar encounter showcases more lip-locks along with bare backs and shoulders. Plenty of swords, knives and a torture chamber are all put into use in the town during the werewolf inquisition and gory scenes of death, severed limbs and violent animal attacks are also shown. However for viewers who expect a good scare from this film, the jump scenes are both predictable and mundane.
While the wintery scenery adds an element of chill to this story, it is hard to find anything redeeming or engaging about this tale, especially when we feel like we’ve been down this road before—with that vampire guy.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Red Riding Hood.
How does Father Solomon incite suspicions among the people? How does this lessen their ability to work together to fight the werewolf? What other leaders have turned their people against one another by raising doubts among them?
Valerie is very much the central character of this story. Does the focus on her hinder the development of the other characters? Do you think the villagers’ response to her is reflective of the time in which they lived? How did superstition and fear affect the actions of people during medieval times?