Morbid March Hare has shared with us her thoughts on Little Red Riding Hood and some of its film interpretations. You, too, can participate still. Read more about it at Fairy Tale Film Month.
And the rest is from her today:
My favourite fairy tale is Little Red Riding Hood in all its variations including the more dismal Perrault, the happier Grimm's version and the disturbing yet poignant Path of Needles or Pins, in which the heroine is helped by women and her own resourcefulness rather than needing a man to come save her. Over the years Red Riding Hood as developed from a tale of warning to young girls to beware wolves in all their guises, as Charles Perrault says 'Who does not know that these gentle wolves are of all such creatures the most dangerous!'
In the movie world there are several adaptations, two of which I am very familiar with- The Company of Wolves and the latest Red Riding Hood starring Amanda Seyfried. I love The Company of Wolves it is one of my favourite movies and it is simply put one of the greatest gothic movies out there and the best adaptation of Red Riding Hood in the film world, at least that I am aware of. Based on three short stories by Angela Carter- The Werewolf, The Company of Wolves, and Wolf-Alice- all collected together in The Bloody Chamber, it is a provocative, dark film full of symbolism and metaphors as it follows its heroine Rosaleen as she develops from child into young woman. In true fairytale fashion it is dreamlike, most of the movie in fact takes place inside a dream and is a combination of tales told by Rosaleen and her Grandmother that are weaved into the over-arching plot of Rosaleen's simple life in a village plagued by wolves of a varying nature.
I love this movie because it is no different from the norm, director Neil Jordan was obviously happy to take the risks of creating a film that was happy to be weird and explore subjects often seen as taboo and give meaning to them. This is not your standard predictable Hollywood movie with a straightforward, often dull plot, boring leads and a typical plot built around romance, it is something much rarer. It is horror and fantasy, a film full of moral lessons for girls growing up as well as lessons for those who are grown up and think they know it all when maybe it is possible that much like Rosaleen's bitter grandmother they are blind to the possibilities to this world and see only the darkness.
It follows the famous fairytale faithfully including a woodsman, a grandmother in the woods, the infamous red cloak and that all too memorable scene of Red Riding Hood meeting the wolf along the path and discovering that he has beat her to grandmother's house and that poor grandmother for all her wisdom has still met her end. Here the film changes, harping back to the earlier versions of the tale that lacked the huntsman whilst going off on its own tangent to empower Rosaleen and give us the heroine Little Red Riding Hood should have been. Better still it gives us a Red who is the heroine and wolf in one, a twist which I simply loved.
This movie is a divergent, under appreciated gem, the kind of movie sorely lacking in Hollywood were we are given something deeper and different, a thought provoking, colourful and entertaining film that is without peers. Perhaps its rarity makes it all the more charming but I would not mind seeing more of its kind. I love everything about it, its wonderful casting, its gothic atmosphere, its faithfulness to the fairytale above all else and its wonderful imagery as its mixes werewolves, wolves and men together, presenting them to us in six tales, two told by Grandmother, two by Rosaleen, the main tale of the film itself and the reality of Rosaleen's world as it is torn apart by a striking scene of wolves charging through her house.
This brings me to one of the movies I loathe- Red Riding Hood (2011)- directed by Catherine Hardwicke who, if this is anything to go by, will never lose her reputation as being the Twilight director. Bad enough that the posters had Twilight plastered over them and the trailer was deliberately edited to represent another Twilight styled movie but the movie itself was no different. Following the standard pattern of a love triangle mixed up in a supernatural world, it was predictable from the get go, you know Valerie is going to be with Peter and though I admit I did have fun trying to guess who the werewofl was it seems obvious now, it was only actor who came from Twilight, how tragic in a way.
This version of Little Red Riding Hood could have been a new bold horror but instead it decided to play it safe minimalising the sexual and gory scenes, which sometimes in a horror is a relief since many low budget horrors go to town with these scenes, but given this fairytale is ultimately viewed as a metaphor for a girl coming of age and discovering her sexual side, they could have dealt with it more. Instead Valerie's confusing romance issues are to put to one side for a whodunnit styled murder mystery as people in the village fall victim to a werewolf and the ridiculous Father Solomon is brought in to find the killer's identity before the werewolf curse is spread.
The special effects of the werewolf are woeful, the plot is very easy to lose interest in and there is sadly nothing original about it. The end has Valerie winding up a recluse like her grandmother with implied infrequent visits from her now werewolf lover Peter, an ending which could have been presented as bittersweet and sad but just seemed somewhat cheesy.
This film had a lot of potential but it was let down at every turn, Father Solomon is one of the worst onscreen villains I have ever seen, Valerie comes across as a boring, underdeveloped and somewhat idiotic lead and her love interests are equally dull and the acting from them is poor. If anything Henry's character actually seems the nicer of the two as he nothing but kind and considerate to Valerie and seems to truly have feelings for her whilst Peter is blunt and rude and when Valerie's mother tells him to stay away from Valerie rather than fight for her he obeys and tries to hurt her by dancing with her friend, for me I really couldn't understand why she thought Peter was the better catch.
I feel this film really lost sight of what Red Riding Hood is about, it cheapened Red's growing sexuality into a dull love triangle that could have been a way to actually show how Red's feelings grow as she does and how her urges develop but instead this triangle came about from her parents' interference rather than Red's own desires. Furthermore, the now common addition of the big bad wolf being a werewolf, was just an excuse to throw in some mystery that failed, there was no depth at all to the werewolf and the reasoning behind its murders were luducrious and the idea that he actually wants to pass on his curse is baffling.
Overall, The Company of Wolves grasps this loved fairytale a whole lot better than the mess that was Red Riding Hood, it offers the fairytale greater depth prompting the audience to give it some more thought and consideration, suggesting ideas about it one might not have considered before, whilst Red Riding Hood turns it into a ridiculous who dunnit styled film mixed in with a pointless love triangle that really isn't even the love triangle it was advertised as, as Valerie never really has feelings for Henry.
Morbid March Hare