Hollywood's new twist on fairy-tales

By Tim Masters
Entertainment correspondent, BBC News

image captionLady in red: Amanda Seyfried stars in Catherine Hardwicke's dark fairy-tale

Along with the usual sequels and spin-offs, Hollywood is about to bombard cinemas with new takes on old fairy-tales - starting with Red Riding Hood.

If Red Riding Hood, with its pale teenage heroine torn between two admirers, looks a bit like Twilight, it's because it is.

The live action fairy-tale is directed by Catherine Hardwicke, who launched the Twilight film franchise in 2008.

Red Riding Hood sees Hardwicke plunder the earliest versions of the story - before it was re-told by the Brothers Grimm - and make the hairy antagonist a werewolf.

Her film is also a "whodunnit" aimed squarely at the teen market. It is set in a medieval village called Daggerhorn, where even the poorest woodcutter wears hair gel and Freudian symbolism lurks behind every tree.

media captionAmanda Seyfried discusses her latest role as Little Red Riding Hood in an upcoming horror film version of the book

"The red cape can represent many things," says Hardwicke, whose other films include a big-screen re-telling of The Nativity Story in 2006.

"Power, sexuality, sensuality, loss of virginity - artists over the last four centuries have been inspired by it.

"Japanese anime artists show it in tatters, with Red Riding Hood holding an axe with blood dripping down it."

Hardwicke's film casts Amanda Seyfried as Valerie, who is given the titular hood by her Bohemian grandmother (Julie Christie).

Valerie is in love with woodcutter Peter (Shiloh Fernandez) but is expected to marry wealthy suitor Henry (Max Irons).

Yet there are bigger problems in Daggerhorn. A red full moon unleashes the resident lycanthrope, so famous werewolf hunter Father Solomon (Gary Oldman) is summoned to kill the beast.

A possibly even bigger problem is the wolf-like mauling the film has received from US critics.

"What we have here is a sheep in wolf's clothing," said the Los Angeles Times.

"Gorgeously shot, smartly conceived, cleverly cast, badly executed - the lush medieval beauty here is at best only skin deep."

"The picture feels under-realised in almost every respect, from its viscerally unsatisfying set-pieces to a bland romantic melodrama that suggests a poor man's Bella, Edward and Jacob," complained Variety, referring to the protagonists of the Twilight series.

Witch hunters

Red Riding Hood is one of a multitude of modern twists on fairy stories destined for cinemas over the next 18 months.

Later in April comes Beastly, which relocates Beauty and Beast to a New York high school.

Britain's Alex Pettyfer plays the lead character, a teenager who loses his good looks when he upsets a classmate who happens to be a witch.

image captionCatherine Hardwicke directed the first Twilight film

There are also two Snow White movies in the pipeline, one of which will see Lily Collins, daughter of rock star Phil, in the title role.

Julia Roberts will play the Wicked Queen in Tarsem Singh's adaptation, which will start filming next month and be released in summer 2012.

The other version, Snow White and the Huntsman, will have Twilight's Kristen Stewart in the lead and Charlize Theron as the evil queen.

Meanwhile, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters is due to hit cinemas in early 2012.

Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton star as the fairy-tale characters, who are out for revenge 15 years after their escape from the gingerbread house.

So why are re-worked fairy-tales now in vogue? "Hollywood loves any franchise, any prequel, any sequel," says Hardwicke.

"They'll take anything that people already know. Everybody in the world knows these titles and they can hook onto it."

Amanda Seyfried agrees. "The supernatural thing, as with the vampires and werewolves in Twilight, is inspiring because filmmakers and actors can do so much with that kind of idea," says the 25-year-old.

"Fairy-tales have those qualities - and we all know them - so the studios are just seeing dollar signs."

For those who just can't get enough of Red Riding Hood - and prefer their fairy-tales animated - there is good news.

Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs Evil - a sequel to 2005 comedy Hoodwinked - will be released in the US at the end of April.

Red Riding Hood is out in the UK on 15 April. Beastly is out on 22 April.

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