By Douglas Pratt Pratt@moviecitynews.com
DVD Geek: Red Riding Hood
“From the director of Twilight,” is the smartly placed promotional message at the top of the Warner Home Video Alternate Cut Blu-ray jacket for Red Riding Hood, and indeed, Catherine Hardwicke’s 2011 fantasy thriller is a worthy cousin of the monster hit she spawned. Set in an imaginary Middle Ages village nestled in the British Columbian woods, the citizens are being terrorized by a werewolf that has suddenly stopped accepting their livestock sacrifices and taken to snacking on the sacrificers. Two hunky guys are in love with the heroine, played by Amanda Seyfried. She likes one of them more than the other, but when she is threatened by the wolf, they stop fighting over her and join forces to protect her. Except that one of them may be the werewolf. Yes, along with being one of those dreamboat supernatural romantic dramas, the 100-minute film is also a ‘who’s the werewolf?’ mystery, with a clever, under the radar but totally logical wolf in sheep’s clothing, as it were, killer. When it comes to setting up ideas or executing conflicts within a scene, Hardwicke sometimes plays too obvious a hand, but she is always working toward a worthwhile goal, so such technical shortcoming are entirely forgivable. If they gave out awards for Best Use of the Color Red, the film would have a lock on 2011, and its cozy little fantasy world makes the film visually compelling even when the heroine doesn’t feel the need to keep her shoulders warm. The story is satisfying, the performances are mostly serviceable, the performers are quite attractive, there is a decent amount of excitement in the various action scenes, and to top it all off, despite the obvious echoes of Twilight, Beowulf, The Beast Must Die and plenty of other precedents, the film nevertheless qualifies as being something out of the ordinary and not the typical assembly-line concoction. It is a pleasing movie that some viewers want to condemn because it is being a little adventurous in ways that films usually aren’t adventurous, but that sort of enhanced freshness is all the better to entertain you with.
Both the original theatrical version and the Alternate Cut are presented on the BD. There is only a half-minute’s difference between them, the most significant being the final shots in Alternate Cut before the credits start to scroll, which add a little something to the story’s conclusion, although, truth be told, the theatrical version is better. The picture is letterboxed with an aspect ratio of about 2.35:1. Even with the Blu-ray perfections, the contrasts around some of the effect shots are a bit weak. The shots in the woodsy snow, however, watching the heroine from behind in her crimson cape, are worthy of posters and screen savers, and look flawless. The DTS sound is terrific, with some creepy directional effects and plenty of dimensional punch. The theatrical version has alternate French, Spanish and Portuguese language tracks, while the Alternate Cut is in English only. Both versions have English, French, Spanish and Portuguese subtitling. The BD comes with a second platter that features a DVD presentation of the film as well as a version that can be downloaded onto handheld viewing devices.
The film is accompanied by 27 minutes of good production featurettes (best moments—a musician records a drumbeat on a watermelon floating in a bucket for the musical score; and a rehearsal of a dancing scene that is hot as all get out even though the performers are just in their sweats), 7 minutes of interesting audition tapes, 4 minutes of deleted scenes (all of which should have been left in), a slapstick-heavy 3-minute blooper reel and two very sexy music videos. There is also a commentary track that is presented with a generally pointless video insert, unless you think the stars are worth watching in their civvies, dance rehearsals notwithstanding. Hardwicke and Seyfried are joined by co-stars Shiloh Fernandez and Max Irons. They talk a little bit about specific late nights or staging challenges, and heap praise upon the skills of veteran cast members Julie Christie, Gary Oldman and Amy Madigan, but the insights they have to offer are limited and there are gaps in the talk near the end.