Red Hoods, Dark Woods Part II: Once Upon A Time…
Matthew Bright’s indie film Freeway updated and reinterpreted the story in 1996, with Little Red Riding Hood (Reese Witherspoon) portrayed as a white-trash juvenile delinquent on her way to stay with her grandmother when her drug-addicted, prostitute mother and abusive step-father are hauled off to prison. Naturally, she has a run in with the ‘big bad wolf’ – Kiefer Sutherland as a mentally deranged serial killer targeting vulnerable young women on the titular freeway. Unfolding as a wickedly off-kilter road movie, Freeway also provides damning social commentary on the US’s Right Wing justice system and how it treats the juvenile delinquents caught up in it.
|Still from 'Trick 'r Treat'|
Also made in 2003, Little Erin Merryweather updates the tale to feature Red Riding Hood as a serial killer with severe psychological hang-ups originating from her molestation as a child: the 'big bad wolf' in her past being her abusive father. She works as a fairytale-obsessed librarian on a college campus and preys on male students; stalking them through nearby woods, stabbing them to death and sowing stones up inside their bellies. The film, directed by and starring David Morwick boasted the tag line 'A flash of red... Then you're dead', and craftily subverted the norm by playing around with gender conventions resulting in a film about a group of young men who are stalked by a female killer.
|Still from 'Brothers Grimm'|
Catherine Hardwicke’s Red Riding Hood - written by David Leslie Johnson (who also wrote the creepy and disturbing The Orphan) - is loosely based on the original folk tale “Le Petit Chaperon Rouge” (Little Red Riding Hood), as written by Charles Perrault, and elements from the version by the Brothers Grimm, “Rotkäppchen” (Redcap), which was written several decades later. With its supernaturally charged story boasting werewolves and angst-ridden teens embroiled in a quivering love triangle, Red Riding Hood has already drawn comparisons with Hardwicke’s adaptation of teen-vampire romance, Twilight. It would be easy to dismiss Hardwicke as a peddler of pallid, gothic-hewn romances for lovelorn, awkward teenage girls; easy, were it not for the fact that she also co-wrote and directed the hard-hitting and wayward drama Thirteen.
It is fair to say that the figure of a red-hooded girl picking her way cautiously through deep dark woods, still haunts popular culture today and drips with sexual undertones. It is one of the most effective expressions of the ultimate loss of innocence. From Roald Dahl’s ‘Revolting Rhymes’ through countless music videos by the likes of Evanescence and Cathy Davey, to explicit references in horror movies such as Trick 'r Treat and The Brother’s Grimm, to darker, more erotic takes on pre-Perrault versions of the tale, such as Neil Gaiman’s reinterpretation in ‘The Sandman’; the little girl with the red riding hood actually cuts a pretty impressive swathe through pop culture and media.