The Big Bad Wolf is bigger and badder than ever in Twilight director Catherine Hardwick’s re-imagining of an old classic.

‘Once upon a time’, we find the picturesque town of Daggerhorn, surrounded by forest and shrouded by fear of a notorious, serial-killing werewolf, whose identity remains a mystery. For beautiful, free-spirited Valerie (Mamma Mia’s Amanda Seyfried) however, this is less of a problem than her impending betrothal to Henry Lazar (Max Irons) rather than to her dreamy childhood sweetheart, Peter (Shiloh Fernandez). When Peter suggests that she run away with him, Valerie agrees wholeheartedly; but when the Wolf takes another victim – her own sister Lucie – Valerie’s plans fall by the wayside. Enraged, the townspeople vow to find the Wolf and end his reign of terror, once and for all.

Considering the breadth of Hardwick’s success with Twilight, it is inevitable that the comparisons between the two should come thick and fast. Superficially, they are immensely similar: pitched to the same teenaged girl audience, the films both hint at unconsummated longing against a backdrop of supernatural violence. Both have a beautiful ‘loner’ as the protagonist who fills in the blanks for the audience with narration. Cameras soar and meander high above the action, providing us more with a panorama of a small community than the story of a girl. And crucially, both rely on the brooding sexual tension between the leads to drive the story forward.

This is where the similarities end. While Twilight pulled this off convincingly enough for the latest instalment to gross nearly $700 million worldwide, Red Riding Hood falls short. It’s enjoyably pulpy at times, but also sometimes ponderous and incoherent. Seyfried is typically wide-eyed and entrancing, but this type of role is a walk in the park, well, forest, for her. Fernandez attempts to smoulder but struggles to bring to Peter the much-needed charisma apparently forgotten by the writers. Considering his pedigree (he’s the son of Jeremy Irons and Sinead Cusack), it’s little surprise that Max Irons steals the show, but his like-ability does the overall story no favours. Far from being the supernatural horror flick the trailer would have us believe, this film is most convincing when it’s a simple tale about a love triangle.

This is not to say that there isn’t fun to be had in the periphery: veterans Julie Christie and Gary Oldman provide somewhat farcical entertainment as Grandmother and Solomon respectively, and ensemble scenes with the Greek-chorus-style townsfolk seem to carry an intriguing level of energy. All in all however, it’s a telling sign when you realise that the town’s fear of the Wolf is ultimately more frightening than the creature itself.

First posted on Movie Nation: March 30th, 2011

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