Red Riding Hood (Giacomo Cimini, 2003)
Red Riding Hood is another of those films I seem to be drawn to that was made in another country, horribly mismarketed in America, and suffered greatly for it in initial release. Usually it happens to southeast Asian supernatural dramas that get brought over as Yet Another Asian Horror Film, but in this case we have an Italian black comedy/thriller/musical/character study that was incorrectly called a horror flick. And if you go into it expecting a horror film (or, worse, a horror “retelling” of the Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale), well, you’re probably going to end up being one of the people who’ve given the movie, as of this writing, a 38% at Rotten Tomatoes and a 4.5 at IMDB. (Not that the recent horror retelling of said fairy tale, released in 2011 and starring Amanda Seyfried, did much better; 11% critical and 39% popular on RT, 5.2 on IMDB.) But if you go into it with no expectations and an open mind, you may find it more enjoyable than you expect. It’s not great, but it’s certainly not as bad as the ratings at the big websites would have you believe.
Plot: a young girl named Jennifer McKenzie (Susanna Satta in her only screen appearance to date) has been left alone in her mother’s palatial apartment in Rome…and she prefers it that way, with only her tutor, Tom (Exorcist: The Beginning‘s Rob David), on whom she has a major-league crush, and her imaginary…or is he?…friend George (Simone Dipascasio in his only screen appearance) to keep her company. While Tom teaches her about art and literature, she learns very different lessons from George, whom she takes out cruising the streets at night, looking for sinners upon whom she can visit vigilante justice. Life is going well for Jennifer, if not for her victims, until her Aunt Rose (Kathleen Archebald, another newbie) comes to put her back under adult supervision, a move she does not take to kindly at all. Never fear, George is on the case…
To be fair to the critics, there are a number of shortcomings in this movie, and the vituperation directed against the film from almost every direction has managed to hit on a few of them (in that stopped-clock kind of way). Most of the actors here are, in fact, amateurs, though I don’t think that detracts from the film nearly as much as many others seem to; Susanna Satta’s overacting, especially, gives the film an otherworldly, cartoonish quality that fits in quite well with the fantasy content here. Then there’s the whole musical aspect. Which I don’t know what to say about—you’re either going to love it or hate it. I came in on the latter side, though that’s probably my general dislike of musicals showing through rather than any dislike of this material in particular. And I’m not entirely sure where Cimini was attempting to go with the film’s violence; he didn’t succeed if he was going for the over-the-top cartoony violence of a film like (the original) Dawn of the Dead, and the more realistic feel he seems to have been aiming for is out-of-place in the film we ended up with. That’s going to turn a lot of people off.
Still, if you’re looking for a slasher film that attempts to do something altogether different with the genre, Red Riding Hood is one to look up. ** ½
I have been remiss in providing good old basic trailers instead of little weirdnesses down here. I am attempting to atone, I promise!