leedock’s CBR-III Review #3 “Red Riding Hood”

Say what you will about the “Twilight” book and movie,  but director Catherine Hardwicke was the editor that Stephenie Meyer desperately needed. She somehow managed to pull out the essence of the Twilight characters without wallowing too much in the “Edward’s cold hard chest” garbage, and the sparkly meadow scene could have been even MORE painful. I can’t say the same for the other movies.

The Twilight movie is worth watching for the Cullen’s family Italian dinner and the graduation cap wall art alone, but more than anything, I think Hardwicke really captured the sense that teenagers, however self-absorbed,  are always trying to look at themselves from the outside. How do I look? What do people think of me? How do I fit in? Am I normal?

I have been seeing the trailer for Hardwicke’s “Red Riding Hood” everywhere since it was first posted on Pajiba.  So, when I spotted the Sarah Blakley-Cartwright novel at the bookstore I thought I’d give it a try before the movie came out. I didn’t realize until I got the blasted thing home that it was a book BASED on the screenplay by David Leslie Johnson and the movie directed by Hardwicke. Ugh. I was reminded of those awful books in my middle school years with snippets of dialogue, behind the scenes gossip and glossy stills from the movie inserted in the center. That’s basically what DVD extras are now, come to think of it, but I wasn’t looking for a keepsake, I was hoping for a novel and that is, in the end,  what I got.

It is an interesting way of approaching a novel.  Hardwicke invited Blakley-Cartwright, who is actor in a couple of her films and a writer fresh out of college, to the set of the “Red Riding Hood” film where she was able to observe the filming and interview the actors . The end result is, apparently, a more fleshed out version of the film and screenplay.

It is a fairly sexually charged coming of age story wrapped inside a story of ignorance, superstition and fear. It is “The Village” if the threat had been real. Our Red Riding Hood, Valerie, is a teenager living in Daggorhorn, a cloistered little village that goes on lockdown every full moon. Each villager takes turns tying up a piece of their prized livestock to a sacrificial altar on full moon nights in order to appease the wolf that has tormented them as long as anyone can remember. Until, of course, the wolf is no longer appeased and during the village harvest begins to kill the villagers unleashing the proverbial townsfolk with pitchforks, the religious right, and a chaotic atmosphere that allows the hormonal boys and girls to experiment a bit. Throw in a big eyed grandmother with a house in the woods and our heroine caught between the good boy she is betrothed to and the bad boy that she wants and you pretty much have it.

This is a novel about being drawn to darkness rather than repelled by it. It’s about becoming aware of your otherness and not being afraid of it. It is also about fear of otherness and the hatred it engenders. It was a quick and satisfying YA read and I like that it ends without definitely identifying the werewolf’s human identity, but I was a bit disappointed by a so-called “cyber chapter” that is supposed to be an internet bonus. A URL is listed at the back of the book and links to a “last chapter coming soon” page which is pretty douchey.

The comparisons to Twilight will be easily drawn here with a girl torn between two boys, both of whom could be the werewolf , but I think that is exactly what puts this up Hardwicke’s alley and why I’ll be seeing the movie. Come on people, think snow and red cape and blood and lust and Amanda Seyfried’s guppy eyes. With Hardwicke at the helm, it sure will be pretty to look at.

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