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Saturday, September 17, 2011

Red Riding Hood (2003)

Fairy tales have often provided inspiration for horror movies- being rather horrific when you read the original, un-Disneyfied versions (I can't forgive Disney for butchering the classic "Hunchback of Notre Dame").  Sometimes, the influence is very direct, and other times a little more obsure.

Jenny is a young girl left to her own devices in Rome after her father is killed, and step-mother leaves for whatever reason meets her fancy at the time.  She sees this as the perfect opportunity to bring Rome a bit of street level justice with the help of her canine friend, "George".  Unfortunately, a crush on her tutor, and her meddling grandmother are in the way of her dispensing her special kinda of justice...

At first glance, you would expect the title to refer to a more direct adaptation of the story of Little Red Riding Hood... but you'd be wrong.  There are references to the story, but they aren't a major part of the story.  There is a grandmother, and Jenny does wear a hood- though it's black with red gloves and rubber boats, and there is a "big bad wolf" in the form of "George".  Beyond that, the story is nothing similar to the familiar fairy tale.

This Italian horror movie is actually quite enjoyable.  Starting with the acting, Susanna Satta as Jenny showed talent.  It was interesting to watch her character go from a nice, innocent look one moment to one of petulance and rage the next.  She gave the character charm and poise, making the character in some ways more mature than her age would make you think.  She also brought a calm, detached malice to the character as well.  I would like to see what other films she's been in to see how her acting grows with experience.  Rose, the grandmother whose played by Kathleen Archebald was also great as well.  She expressed the sort of exasperation that older people have with young people excellently.  You could also feel the anguish and horror her character felt as Jenny's actions take her to a dark hole in life.  Just marvellous.  I also have to say that Robert Purvis did well as Tom- Jenny's tutor.  Even though he really didn't get much in the way of screen time, he helped greatly in the scenes that brought out the girlish side of Jenny... and he takes a hit to the head pretty good too.  Now, one character that didn't get any lines at all- but still served an important role, was that of "George".  Without saying a word, Fabio Sonnino and Simone Dipascasio brought this character to sinister, silent life beautifully.  I was really impressed by them.  In some ways, it reminded me of how Nick Castle was able to give Michael Meyers in "Halloween" that silent, deadly aura without saying anything.  Great!

Of course, "George" was assisted by the great costume used.  It was simple, but worked artistically.  Black hooded raincoat, red gloves, and red rubber boots with a stylized wolf mask.  I loved it.  In fact, if I could find or make the same sort of mask, I would dress as "George" for Halloween.  Heck, I may just have to start a hunt for a reproduction of the mask...

There is some really good camera work in this movie too.  The director, Giacomo Cimini, mixes in close-ups of the rubber boots, and gloves with wider shots of the victim with skill and creativity.  There aren't a lot of unique angles used, but with the mixture of close-ups and wider shots, he didn't need to use a lot of weird angles to build the mood and pace of the story.  The composition of the scenes are well thought out and artistic as well.  There are some shots that I would love to take still frames from and use as posters on my wall.

"Red Riding Hood" also has a decent story as well- fairly unique and interesting.  It was well written and paced.  You came to like the characters- especially Jenny and George, and I found myself thinking about how she might mete justice on the next law breaker.  It's not super deep, but entertaining.  My only complaint with the movie is how it ends.  The end is a bit jarring as it veers off into an entirely different sub-genre of horror and tone, leaving me with my head tilted in puzzlement going, "What the...?"

I would certainly watch this film again, but because of the ending, I'm forced to place "Red Riding Hood" in "The Bad".

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