It's almost inevitable for many to link this to Twilight just because director Catherine Hardwicke is at the helm, and the story having elements of a love triangle coupled with the presence of a werewolf - yes the big bad wolf has evolved from being Big Bad to hulking proportions seen in the Twilight films, but don't let this unwarranted association detract you from what would be quite an adult retelling of this aged old story done in stylized terms and dripping with plenty of sensuality.
The largest credit here will go to the story as re-imagined by David Johnson, crafting something that would appeal to the Twilight generation weaned on a love story with some supernatural elements that many fantasy films of late would have aspired to be, but failed. It's kept relatively simple with the basic character set up of Red Riding Hood, her family, the grandma out in the woods, the wolf and the woodcutter saviour, but updated for the modern audience in quite intelligent, engaging terms, putting together an intriguing guess who mystery with tragic twists.
Amanda Seyfield may have progressed to more adult fare in Atom Egoyan's Chloe, but here retained some girlish innocence with quite the bold, rebellious streak hidden underneath her Valerie's virginal demeanour, forming a long friendship that blossomed into a relationship with woodcutter Peter (Shiloh Fernandez). But alas her family in wanting her to have a better life, betrothed her to blacksmith Henry (Max Irons), whom she is dead set against in marrying. In what would be like taking a leaf from M Night Shayamalan's The Village or Christophe Gans' Brotherhood of the Wolf, the community here is plagued by a werewolf problem, where 20 years of sacrificing animals for a truce have come to naught when Valerie's sister is found murdered, thus sparking off the villager's proactive hunt for the werewolf, coupled with help from the outside coming from Father Solomon (Gary Oldman), and his posse who seem to have abandoned from the Crusades.
Though limited, this film does boast some nicely designed set action pieces in many large scaled battles, where Gary Oldman was at his element in wielding his character's unorthodox brand of justified punishment techniques, and being that self appointed voice in the name of religion to impose his will and style on the villagers. Once again the statement of hypocrisy reared its ugly head as a theme here. The production sets were gorgeous and so were the many costumes, with the crimson cloak and hood making a very striking appearance in stark contrast to the colour schemes around it, leading to very aesthetically pleasing scenes thanks to its picturesque environments and cinematography.
Much has been said about Shiloh Fernandez who is better known as the Edward Reject, but I suppose stardom came late for this star whose good looks here will probably earn him a lot of fans given his alpha-male role. Max Irons too didn't let his lineage down, providing that ample, conflicted fodder for competition. Ah, the choices that a girl has to make to swear allegiance to one camp only. Additional supporting roles from Virginia Madsen, Billy Burke, Julie Christie, Lukas Haas and others all add to the fun in allowing the audience to partake in the deduction of the mystery in the film, which turned out, to me at least, quite the surprise thanks to the many inherent red herrings and suggestions which are more than likely to throw you off track.
Like the reboot of Star Trek, Red Riding Hood is that surprise package in being able to find some common ground and believable rationale to tell the story the way it had to, coupled with recognizable elements from the classic so as not to alienate fans or abandoning what made it stand out altogether. The soundtrack of the film is to die for in my opinion, and I can't get the tunes out of my head, enough to go look for the soundtrack to experience the sensuousness all over again. My, what big features this film had indeed. Recommended!