There’s a lot to hate about this movie. I could, and probably should just leave it at that. But I won’t because that wouldn’t be any fun. We all know the story. Little girl wearing a red hooded cape walks through the forest to deliver cookies to her grandmother. When she gets there, her grandmother more or less resembles a wolf; big eyes, big ears, big teeth. The wolf, of course, has dispatched with grandma and is lying in wait for Red. Of course, Red is saved by the woodcutter (or hunter) and lives happily ever-after. Fairytales are like that, don’tcha know. This version ain’t really that much different and the telling of it is much less interesting. The acting was poor. The directing was poor. The production was poor. The writing was poor. I could go on and on, but you get the idea.
So why write about it? Good question. I took the time to watch it, so why not? Most critics seemed to think that this was a teenage girl’s sexual fantasy a la Twilight. But I think that view is too narrow and misses the boat almost entirely. This isn’t a teenage girl’s sexual fantasy. It’s a rape fantasy and a statement on rape culture. The werewolf is the rapist. The girl is his intended victim and everyone else is suffering from rape hysteria.
A young woman is killed (symbolically raped) by the wolf and her death sends the village into a panic. The men of the village whip themselves into a fever and go off to hunt the wolf (kill the rapist). One of them is killed in the process. The priest (representing the village authority) sends for a renowned werewolf hunter (a higher authority). This hunter is willing to use whatever methods are necessary to kill the wolf. Those methods include accusing (false allegations) and killing innocents. All men are suspected werewolves and so are some of the women.
Valerie (Red, played by Amanda Seyfried) is the central character and the love object of the would-be rapist. Her older sister is the first to die. Her fiance’s father is next. Both are killed by the wolf. The usual suspects include Valerie’s grandmother, her father, and two would-be suitors. Father Solomon (the wolf hunter played by Gary Oldman) falsely accuses and kills off the village idiot, torturing him to death. He also kills one of his own men who is bitten by the wolf and is later killed in a very cliché act of vengeance by that man’s brother for the very same reason.
The killing of the village idiot has the effect of turning Valerie’s best friend against her (the idiot was her friend’s brother). She informs on Valerie to Father Solomon that Valerie can speak with the wolf. Valerie is then accused of being a witch and is arrested and used as bait for the wolf (the wolf told her he will come back for her). The trap works and in the process, Valerie’s fiancé is eliminated as a suspect (not killed). The other suitor (Peter played by Shiloh Fernandez, who she actually loves) ends up missing and becomes the most obvious suspect.
Valerie has a really stupid dream about her grandmother (what big eyes you have) and runs through the forest to her home thinking she is in danger. Along the way she meets Peter and stabs him believing he is the wolf. Wrong. It turns out that her father is the wolf and wants her to be just like him (the rape fantasy turns incestuous). She refuses and is saved by the injured, but still living Peter who is bitten in a struggle with her father. Together the two manage to kill the wolf and dispose of the body, but Peter is now a werewolf, showing that “all men (even the good ones) are potential rapists.”
Rape culture is condoned by the villagers who make a bargain with the werewolf that lasts for twenty years, allowing the village and the wolf to co-exist. Rape hysteria results when the bargain is broken by the wolf when he discovers that his oldest daughter is not his. She was actually the daughter of Valerie’s fiance’s father. Valerie’s mom (the wife of the werewolf) had an affair. A lot of good people died as a result of this woman’s betrayal of her husband and because of the hysteria that ensues. Lest we think that it’s only men that can be rapists, Father Solomon, at one point, reveals that his wife was a werewolf and that she was the first werewolf he had slain. When one looks at the werewolf as analogous to a rapist, this movie becomes a statement about rape and the destructiveness of rape culture based on rape hysteria. It is no longer a teenage girl’s coming of age fantasy in the vein of Twilight. This statement is probably the movie’s only redeeming quality.