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Red Riding Hood

Fishnets and Cellulite

by Kavish Chetty / 29.03.2011

Here’s the theory: postgraduate departments in the humanities are all geared towards churning out happy little Marxists. The logic is clear – whether you’re a journalist, theorist or creative writer, you’re going to grow up to be piss-poor. You’re going to irreparably find yourself caught on the darker side of the financial gulf, and what better way to ease your fractured sense of self-worth than a little schadenfreude? Sufficiently supplying you with the tools to critique capitalism, Marxism lets you know that while you can’t beat them, hell you can criticise them until you feel they aren’t worth beating in the first place. Marxist film criticism is generally less concerned with what goes on inside the screen in so far as it doesn’t relate to what goes on outside the screen. (Which essentially means its not so much focused on the formal aspects of the film, but how that film functions in society). This is an absolute ointment to the critic when you get to a film like Red Riding Hood, where the narrative has all the allure of the Congo at the stroke of midnight. So rather than get caught up in its tortuous tale, let’s start with what this film can offer you:

If you have a fetish for fishnet stockings and cellulite, this film is going to be your bread and butter, because nothing will give you a faster ticket into a chubby goth girl’s bedroom. Instant social upgrade amongst she of the kohl-fringed eyes and designer melancholy. I personally recommend you plan your schedule like this: 8 PM, Red Riding Hood; 10 PM, hit up Gandalf’s/Mordor/ROAR/or any other appropriately dim-lit brandy-and-coking hole in Observatory. Sidle up to the first thing with slashed wrists and purr, “Red Riding Hood… darkly delicious masterpiece.” Within fifteen minutes, you’ll be making that sweet and delicate love to the soundtrack of Cannibal Corpse.

Red Riding Hood

This film is directed by the same auteur responsible for Twilight, dear Catherine Hardwicke: these credentials are not to be fucked with. Red Riding Hood is a giant withdrawal symptom from the Christian-mythological vampire franchise. It wants so badly to act as a financial placeholder while other corporate whores work together on churning out the fourth film in the Twilight saga: Breaking Dawn. In the loosest possible sense, this film is based on the old children’s folk tale, and it switches out glittering adolescent vampires for werewolves. The whole emphasis of this film is on being ‘dark’ and ‘subversive’, but this film is dark like Barack Obama is dark. An enduring lesson for any artist here (and I use the term broadly) is that the more seriously you take yourself, the greater the potential for irony. This film is as self-conscious as the goth and pseudo-goth contingent it is quite clearly marked out for.

I won’t dwell on the plot except to say that it’s set in a medieval village, rather imaginatively called Daggerhorn, and that there’s a terrorist wolf on the loose (he doesn’t play by their rules) who throws the village into panic and hyper-caution, which gives the opportunity for gems of dialogue like, “Be careful in the woods” and “You have no idea what you’re dealing with”. The jeopardy is that this becomes a kind of guessing game when you figure out that one of the villagers is a werewolf and it could be anyone. Queue up several easily-excised minutes of red-herrings.

Red Riding Hood

But I’m in danger of critiquing to pure excess here, because there are aspects of Red Riding Hood that are quite palatable. There are glimpses at an amazing set design, with stark colours against the apocalyptic tundra. There is also Amanda Seyfried as the titular Red, and it’s not so much her acting that is attractive, as the delicate fact of her body: anime-eyes and fey expressions. The rest is made up of suggestions at something vaguely interesting (perhaps a feminist angle, although it’s malformed and ultimately limps nowhere), but for the most part is oiled by werewolf violence and sex-sessions in the forests against felled tree-trunks.

It becomes too easy, faced with such a glut of sub-par cinema, to sound bitter and impossible. Hooked criticisms like the above are too easily doled out. But there’s a brute fact at play here: films like these are just part of a network of circulating trash that numb people. They don’t provoke, they don’t interrogate. They entertain in a fully uninteresting kind of way. Is it melodramatic to ask whether we’re living in the fucking cultural end times and whether our television and cinema bears the greatest witness to this?

 

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RESPONSES (35)
  1. YsterHart says:

    mmm. Look, Im in no way defending this shit pile of a movie, but why associate it with the alternative scene? I mean this shit is about as mainstream as it gets in these days of vampire diaries, wizards and other wankers.

    Honestly its a bit like saying that if you like Lindt 80% cocoa, you’re in the same bag as those chowing down on that carob based cooking chocolate.

    And Cannibal Corpse? They’re a bunch of fat hairy bastards banned in several countries, and have album art to make your stomach churn. Thats a far cry from pretty boy/girls in a bizarrely clean medieval world making eyes at each other. I suppose they’re both vomit inducing, I’ll concede that.

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  2. YsterHart says:

    That said, why Gary Oldman, why? I loved you once.

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  3. Syd willow says:

    Are you a post grad film student?

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  4. agenda says:

    Seems like that opening paragraph was customised for consumption by Brandon Edmonds.

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  5. the cinephile says:

    “Let The Right One In” – now That is a modern vampire movie that’s actually worth checking out.

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  6. faustian dreams says:

    Haha! Classic shot at the Gandalf’s crowd. Hilarious!

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  7. james says:

    ‘Marxist film criticism is generally less concerned with what goes on inside the screen in so far as it doesn’t relate to what goes on outside the screen’

    WTF does this actually mean? doesn’t mahala have any editors? and what does marxist film criticism, which was de rigeur in the 1970s and 80s, btw, have to do with this review? why didn’t you just proceed straight to having a go at fat goth chicks for cheap laughs?

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  8. Spanish Archer says:

    Um, James, it’s not that difficult actually. It means that it doesn’t excessively focus on the narrative or formal aspects of the film in so far as they don’t relate to society, or the way a film functions in society (generally in terms of class and economics, but here that’s being jocularly applied to stereotypical social dynamics). God, I studied film a looong time ago.

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  9. brandon edmonds says:

    Not me. I got lost in the funhouse of chubby goth girls growing up. Nothing but respect.

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  10. Captain Lombard says:

    What a superbly written review – and so funny too!

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  11. Anonymous says:

    Man its pretty painful to watch Mahala try intentionally stir the pot to get a reaction in the hopes of getting back that controversial traffic they used to have.
    ‘Chubby goths? That worked for us before! ‘

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  12. Anonymous says:

    Just a few queries:
    What happens at midnight in the Congo that is so terrible? Some kind of jungle vampire?
    Do you think a similar technique will work on the trend scene? Could I feasibly walk into Assembly and be like, ‘Blow… what a movie, deliciously alluring?’ and bitches will just drop their shit because clearly here, finally, is a man who ‘gets them’.

    So far you’ve two checks down: One with some underscored racism, and then a little sexism too. Plus you think girls are sluts, when they are beautiful individuals who wouldn’t fuck most of the Mahala staff at all, regardless of it they have seen a shitty mainstream movie that targets POPULAR and COMMERCIAL trend. You yourself concede it’s been put together by commercial whores for financial reasons. So sure, target the underground cause thats relevant and totally makes your point for you.

    Its conflicting. If the film is as dark as Obama is, in your words, how do you guarantee it’s success with goth ladies? Oh wait you dont actually have a specific point.

    Malformed and limping feminism aspects? Mr Chauvinist, dont go kosher on us yet!

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  13. dudie says:

    @ anonymous – youre getting really fucking tiresome. get a job dude.
    really, if you are so ‘pained’ by mahala, get the fuck out – i dont think this is the place for people who nitpick at every goddamn sentence – youve been doing it for months now. the wirter is expressing himslef in a very creative way, which plebs like you don’t get. the world is not black and white like you see it, grow the fuck up + your internet modus operandi is so fucking 1996 its not even funny.
    now go chat to rebecca black’s fans.

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  14. Anonymous says:

    So when a writer jumps all over the place with his intention it’s called creative writing? Someone call bukowski and tell him.

    And dudie, you fucking idiot, ‘Anonymous’ isn’t a nickname. Posting here for months? What is this cry baby monitoring IP addresses? The only ones with access to that are those professional and consumate mahala staff, so stop making them look bad.

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  15. Stark says:

    @ anonymous (who’s clearly a sore, chubby goth girl)

    Isn’t the author’s point, by equating (as you call it) a ‘COMMERICAL’ and ‘POPULAR’ movie with the (as you call it) ‘underground’, precisely that the underground isn’t so dark and subversive after all?

    Goth ladies just aren’t as ‘dark’ as they think they are. They are their own mainstream, just less commercially successful.

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  16. bilobab says:

    Fishnets and cellulite. LOL!! I can’t believe Goths still exist. You guys need to go for psychotherapy and then shut the fuck up.

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  17. Anonymous says:

    @Stark…. i think the more pressing topic of debate is, you know, the movie being reviewed, and not the subculture that getting picked on as a catalyst for some kind of snarky comment.
    my argument is that, with all the shit the underground gets, and despite Kavish insisting this movie is for goths and goth wannabes (while also being a market whore for consumerist consumption, very polarising positions those, but whatever), it clearly isn’t, and a much more relevant commentary could have been made.
    But instead we were reduced to gandalf references and cannibal corpse (??).

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  18. Roger Young says:

    Well, to be fair, it’s actually not for Goths per se, but more for mall goths and scene kids but the critique is relevant in that the substance of film itself (this meaning the plot, performance, subtext, all that ikky stuff) is actually non substantial; it does not exist. The film is merely a set of visuals designed to sell itself, capitalising on the current “dark fairy tale” trend that is being pushed at disaffected suburban teenagers all over the first world (read: Constantia). These youth do no see themselves as mainstream, yet they are being targeted as mainstream because there are so may of them. So talking about the “film” means you have to talk about the films intentions, and this films intentions were not to interrogate but rather to titillate; it’s fantasy fodder for future real estate agents and stock brokers.

    And yes, some of them do put Cannibal Corpse on when you go back to Tugwell Hall with them.

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  19. Anonymous says:

    Yes, but then the same implication needs to be made that Twilight and that mormons little army of estrogen is placed firmly in the mall goth market, and exclusively, when it seems to obvious that in this day and age with these current trends: it is not. The suburban housewife, the trendy A grade disco dancer… all dedicated twilight and twilight franchise fans.
    And that seems to bare more interest than the angle of ‘These mall goths think they’re underground but they’re not’ ?

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  20. Roger Young says:

    Agreed. But, I feel, the marketing to the housewives and others only works because it’s aimed at mall goth culture. The question then is, is this an intended side effect or merely happenstance?

    The fact however remains that a lot of those mall goths at Gandalf’s are going to fall for this movie hook, line and silver bullet. And they provide a valuable window into understanding the filmmakers intentions in terms of it’s emptiness and stylistic signifiers.

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  21. james says:

    @ spanish archer – thanks for the potted version of Marxist film crit, which i’m well aware of. i was talking about the ACTUAL SENTENCE! It doesn’t make sense – unless the sense is that marxist film crit doesn’t relate to what goes on outside the screen – which doesn’t make theoretical sense. capiche? this is fun, eh?

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  22. Anonymous says:

    First off: I have not, and will most likely will not see this movie (pinch o salt)

    Secondly:I thought it was a great review, witty and relevant (and appeals to my Marxist leanings)

    Thirdly: @Anonymous: Your unsubstantiated ad hominems (‘racist’; ‘sexist’ etc.) seem to be more of a facile attempt to defend a sub-culture which you feel has been unfairly targeted for ridicule.

    Why ‘facile’? Firstly, because if it was your concern that lines such as ‘chubby fat girl’ are unduly nasty (perhaps even pompous), it was a poor choice to launch yourself into a jilted fit to make this point. You come off as raving; perhaps you feel insulted?

    However, I think it is more problematic that you seem to have made a stark dualism between a supposed mainstream (your “POPULAR AND COMMERCIAL”) and a nominal “underground”; presumably the signified ‘goths’. You obviously think that this film represents an instance of ‘mainstream” appropriation of symbols and values of an inherently counter-cultural movement.

    But is this really such a dichotomy? What is so ‘underground’ about the goths? That they wear particular clothes, listen to particular music and patronize particular bars and clubs is hardly subversive. Indeed, the notion that one’s identity is formed and differentiated by one’s consumption choices (a ‘lifestyle’) is reflective of deepening processes of commodification of social and cultural forms, a distinctive feature of capitalism there are countless subcultures comprising the ‘mainstream’ which do the same. Furthermore, any particular shock value the morbid ‘goth’ aesthetic might once of carried has long since dissipated, but even if it didn’t would hardly constitute the makings of a counter (rather than ‘sub’) cultural movement.

    That is not to say that some ‘goths’ (or punks or nerds or whatever) might not simultaneously occupy part of some sort of incipient counter-cultural form, but I think anyone would be hard pressed to locate it. Certainly it cannot be deduced by whether someone enjoys Lovecraft rather than a more popular vamp flick. At the core of this is a distinction between ‘being’ and ‘appearing’. That one appears to dress ‘differently’, or consume ‘different’ products does not mean those differences run any deeper than of superficial aesthetic.

    Of course goths are not alone here. Punks, nerds, hipsters, myself etc. get the same treatment. Likewise, facebook, twitter etc. all which are used for tallying associations with people or media, in the hope that these define some sort of ontological distinction. But the central question of this review: why are such empty banal and idiotic cultural forms which pervade contemporary social world consumed so ravenously (and often self-consciously) is a good one. Why are we so blindingly entertained by self-referential social forms purely because we recognize them?

    So just stop:

    Hammertime

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  23. Roger Young says:

    Slow clap.

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  24. YsterHart says:

    pew pew pew

    pewpewpew

    PEW PEW!

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  25. dudie says:

    whatever – when you read bukowski enough you can give me a call, until then keep reading your introduction to ethics text book. i dont know your ip either, schmuck – im not from mahala.
    i dont know why i get rowled up because of cocks like you – argumentum ad hominem my ass. people sometimes get punched for being punched for being asses – what type argumentation would you call that?
    quote: “So far you’ve two checks down: One with some underscored racism, and then a little sexism too.”
    i wonder what bukowski meant when he called your mom a whore?
    hahahaha

    ok – bye now, good luck with arts. when you start producing maybe then you can engage in the type of argumentation your are trying to criticize.

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  26. mega-douche says:

    This review was deeply funny! ace one dude!

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  27. Andy says:

    God Anonymous, generally your comments are quite good, (yes I checked your IP and read em all), but sometimes you can be such a maligned, self-righteous, jaundice-eyed hipster douche bag. Kavish reviewed the movie. He made a very clear and pertinent point with this piece, which you missed entirely because you got caught up in some kind of pissing contest with Kavish about the minutiae of who or what is goth as an excuse to show off for your elevated cultural opinion. So here’s the point, again:

    “But there’s a brute fact at play here: films like these are just part of a network of circulating trash that numb people. They don’t provoke, they don’t interrogate. They entertain in a fully uninteresting kind of way. Is it melodramatic to ask whether we’re living in the fucking cultural end times and whether our television and cinema bears the greatest witness to this?”

    And if you really want to write for Mahala (you obviously have the time), instead of berating us with your post-interested *yawn* suburban hipster disenchantment why don’t you just drop me an email…

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  28. dudie says:

    i dont understand why there is a comments section at mahala. andy, rather make people create an account or something if they really want to post. i mean, this is really childish shit. do what boing boing have done:
    Send a comment
    Sign in to comment, or comment anonymously.

    Warning: Anonymous messages are held for moderation. This could take a (long) while. Or your comment may not be posted at all. Please consider creating an account and logging in. It’s fast, free, and we don’t spam, ever.

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  29. Anonymous says:

    Hey someone has to stand up for the Fat Goth Girls of the world! You guys love it when shit gets stirred up, do not deny it

    And dont check my ip, it makes me feel naked. I’ll only post from work now, you bastards.
    And no, I dont want to write for your site. And changing the current comment section would result in a loss of quality on the site.

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  30. LukeSkyCrawler says:

    CRap…

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  31. Kitt says:

    Somehow I don’t think chubby goth girls listen to Cannibal Corpse. Get your sub-genres right!

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  32. Andrew says:

    whats wrong with the Congo at midnight? I cant wait to get there.

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  33. post-goth says:

    Hey, now here’s a real, ahem, ‘goth’ film from the actual eighties, that long precedes the current ‘Red Riding Hood’ offering, and comes with a cool literary and pop culture (of the time) check list. Well worth watching in light of the various critiques addressed here. Based on a series of short stories written by the late cult British author (and last of the original postmodernists and post-feminists) Angela Carter, part of whose ouevre was reinterpreting the classic fairy tale (including cautionary tales such as Little Red Riding Hood), ‘Company of Wolves’ is all werewolves, sex and death (see singer Danielle Dax, all Souxie Sioux hair, emerging naked from a well at full moon) without pandering to commercial culture in any way – so much so that the film flopped dismally at the time, but remains iconic (despite a certain dated-ness – devoid as it is of the pornographically lush scenery seen in ‘Red Riding Hood’) viewing for those of us who survived Tugwell Hall in the late eighties, and who eventually grew out of fishnets and hairspray, and even lost the adolescent puppy fat. Ah, those were the days…

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  34. Roger Young says:

    Lizelle, is that you?

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  35. mrs bonkowitz says:

    Please dont change the comments section! some of us seaside-village-part time-housewives(popular commercial subculture?) get such a kick out of them. interrogative,entertaining its all here, even when certain anonymouses get us all going.
    Great article and comments…. a good job all round

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