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3 stars
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Overall Grade
3 stars

(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)

The Movie Itself
1 Stars
HD Video Quality
3.5 Stars
HD Audio Quality
4 Stars
0.5 Stars
High-Def Extras
1.5 Stars
Bottom Line
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Red Riding Hood: Alternate Cut (Combo Pack)

Street Date:
June 14th, 2011
Reviewed by:
Review Date: 1
July 25th, 2011
Movie Release Year:
Warner Brothers
100 Minutes
MPAA Rating:
Release Country
United States

Editor's Notes

Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of 'Red Riding Hood' (Single Disc Edition)

The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

The folk tale made famous by The Brothers Grimm receives a new sexy makeover in Catharine Hardwicke's ('Twilight') 'Red Riding Hood.' Why exactly a legendary morality story would need such radical alterations is only one in a series of baffling questions in this latest feature aimed at the tween audience. The movie's absurd plot, written by David Johnson who also gave us 'Orphan' and is part of the writing team behind 'The Clash of the Titans' sequel, tries to meld two opposing genres the likes we haven't seen since the gothic B-features of the 60s and 70s. Unfortunately, this horror melodrama is something I imagine even Roger Corman or Hammer Films passing on as too-convoluted even for their tastes.

After sweeping through the snowy mountains of who-knows-where and catching a glance of an undisclosed beautiful medieval castle — the filming took place inside a soundstage in Canada, go figure — the film opens with two children trapping a bunny and slitting its throat purely for fun. Did I mention the movie seems aimed at younger viewers? No matter, filmmakers avoid the whole serial-killer tendencies discussion anyhow by simply excusing it as a dark personality trait within our protagonist. That's right. The little blonde girl with the knife in one hand and a cute white bunny in the other is supposedly the story's hero, who ten years later suddenly transforms into Amanda Seyfried.

Donning the iconic red cape and hood, Seyfried proves she's not only capable of picking horrible scripts — 'Dear John' anybody? — but also capable of terribly nauseating acting. It's difficult to pinpoint her character because she's strong-willed and independent one minute, but then fragile and in need of rescue from a studly, strapping hunk, ofwhich by the way Seyfried is given two to choose from. The first is her betrothed husband Henry played by Max Irons, who basically musters up his best acting skills and still falls dreadfully short. And the second is the real love-interest Peter played by Shiloh Fernandez, who possesses an uncanny resemblance to Joaquin Phoenix if he were younger.

As if this were to somehow add depth to the main character, Seyfried is now caught in an embarrassing Harlequin-style love triangle. Who should she choose? The man who, according to her mother (Virginia Madsen), will provide her with a stable, comfortable, rewarding future and family, or the rebellious cool guy she'd much rather have hot, steamy, passionate sex with — I did mention this being targeted at tweens right? And let me remind our readers, when thinking about her future, Seyfried's choices are between a blacksmith and a woodcutter. Now, that's a tough cookie to crumble, right there. Between the two labor jobs, which one is more secure and won't suddenly disappear when the economy takes a nosedive?

Yeah, by this point I'm left with a permanent, indelible WTF question-mark on my face. And I'm only thirty minutes into the picture! There's still some ridiculous subplot about a CGI werewolf that kills villagers but has a thing for Seyfried. No, wait. This is supposed to be the main plot, being a so-called reimagining of "Little Red Riding Hood" and all. The preposterous romance angle is meant as the secondary focus. But then Gary Oldman cashes a paycheck as a corrupt priest with a pack of witch hunters and a storyline that completely goes nowhere. And why does grandma (Julie Christie) live outside the boundaries of the village knowing there's an evil vicious monster on the loose? And let's not even start on the ending, which is made worse by the alternate cut.

There's a great deal to pick apart in Hardwicke's 'Red Riding Hood,' which makes it an utter displeasure to watch. But I suppose if I could find any positives it would in the set design, photography and the musical score. The movie is pretty to look at, full of atmospheric dread, giving the impression we're watching a big-budgeted gothic music video. The score by Alex Heffes and Brian Reitzell only heightens and complements the visuals. It's a shame so much energy and time is spent on building suspense, setting expectations high for a wild, ravaging showdown between man and beast. But all we get in the end is no more exciting than a cute toddler wrestling a lovable puppy with a feather. Absolutely adorable, sure, but it doesn't make for much of a fantasy horror flick.

The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats

Warner Home Video offers 'Red Riding Hood' in a two-disc combo pack — a Region Free, BD50 Blu-ray and a DVD-9 with Digital Copy. Housed in a blue eco keepcase with a lenticular slipcover, the disc contains an alternate cut of the movie along with the theatrical version via seamless branch. The difference between the two is less than a minute, which is nothing more than an extra steamy scene towards the end affecting the ending. At startup, viewers can skip a trailer for 'Something Borrowed' before staring at a still of Seyfried running through the forest and the normal menu selection, where we pick which cut to watch.

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

Being a newer release from a modestly-financed production, I half expected something a bit better from this 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 (2.40:1). Although many scenes are quite average, the transfer as a whole offers more hits than misses and most, I'm sure, will find it satisfying enough, excusing any drawbacks as the result of the intended photography.

Contrast is consistent though sways generally towards the lower end of the grayscale and often lacks a good deal of punch. Blacks appear affected by this, looking deep and true one minute and grayish dull in another, which tends to ruin depth and flatten the image somewhat. Delineation in the shadows can also suffer, regularly obscuring much of the background info during the many sequences with poor lighting. The amber-warm color palette, on the other hand, remains fixated with a Halloween-gothic blend of fiery orange and steely blues while vivid reds pop from the screen in nearly every scene.

The overall video is sharply detailed and well-defined, making most of the unique set design plainly visible, but there are also a few intrusions of softness and hazy blurriness in the mix.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

In the audio department, 'Red Riding Hood' leaves a much better aftertaste with this rewarding DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. Granted, the design's most impressive aspects comes from the gothic score collaboration of Alex Heffes and Brian Reitzell, which widens the soundstage rather nicely and keeps listeners engaged from beginning to end. But there are also several action scenes with excellent crisp details and extensive range while dialogue remains distinct and intelligible. Low bass packs a healthy oomph, though not far-reaching or very intense. Movement between the channels during these sequences is smooth and convincing, extending the soundfield for an enjoyable immersive effect. The rears also participate with minor musical bleeds and a few subtle atmospherics, making it surprisingly satisfying for a rather unsatisfying horror fantasy flick.

The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff

’Red Riding Hood’ debuts day-and-date as its DVD counterpart and carries over the one and only extra.

  • Deleted Scenes (HD) — What’s more surprising is that there are any leftover sequences at all, let alone four.

HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?

For the Blu-ray edition, Hardwicke’s horror melodrama takes a meatier bite by offering the rest of the bonus assortment exclusive to the high-def format with BD-Live Functionality. The package includes a DVD/Digital Copy of the movie.

  • Secrets Behind the Red Cloak (HD) — The Picture-in-Picture commentary with director Catherine Hardwicke, Amanda Seyfried, Shiloh Fernandez and Max Irons is a rather dawdling and unfocused conversation about pretty much nothing. The three talk about the most random stuff, like Seyfried failing to give Max a knitted hat, while also recollecting seemingly useless stories about on-set shenanigans. There really is nothing to learn from this discussion. Even interview clips with cast and crew fall short of providing any worthwhile information on the production. About the only thing of any interest is the storyboard comparisons and some behind-the-scenes footage. Otherwise, it's mild stuff, only hardcore fans will want to watch.

  • Behind the Story (HD, 36 min) — Broken into seven separate featurettes, this is a somewhat in-depth look at the production, or at least better than the PiP commentary. It starts with a discussion on modernizing the folk tale, before moving on to the two young hunks. There are also talks about the CGI work, casting and rehearsal footage. Best of all, viewers can enjoy the movie in just over a minute, which is a dramatic improvement.

  • Gag Reel (HD, 3 min) — Just as the title suggests, you will gag at what producers think is funny bloopers.

  • Music Videos (HD) — Two videos with the first being a dreadful performance by Fever Ray doing "The Wolf" and another of moody music by Anthony Gonzalez & Brian Reitzell called "Just a Fragment of You."

Easter Eggs

Warner throws in one extra featurette hidden within the main menu. When scrolling through the selection of "Special Features," move the cursor to the right until "Music Videos" is highlighted. Push the button to the right once more, and a one-minute video suddenly appears. The same thing can be done moving to the left. Either way, it's a complete waste and more embarrassing than funny.

Final Thoughts

In 'Red Riding Hood,' Catherine Hardwicke attempts to modernize the legendary folk tale made famous by The Brothers Grimm with a sexy makeover. Starring Amanda Seyfried and Gary Oldman, the horror melodrama fails at entertaining viewers but succeeds at the baffling logic within a visually-arresting narrative. The Blu-ray debuts with good though far from stunning video but a better audio presentation. Supplements are not very extensive, but they're mostly exclusive to the high-def format, making this a decent purchase only for fans.

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