October 26, 2020

Red Hoods & White Fangs: LRRH on Film, By Amanda Bergloff

But grandmother, what big eyes you have.
The better to see you with.
Oh, but grandmother, what big teeth you have.
The better to eat you with...

Everyone knows the story of Little Red Riding Hood, the girl with no name who was identified by what she wore. She vows to her mother to stay on the path through the woods when she's sent to her grandmother's house, but strays to pick flowers after a wolf tricks her. The wolf proceeds to grannie's house and devours her before Little Red can get there. When Little Red arrives, she finds what she thinks is her grandmother, but soon finds out it is not.

Out of all the fairy tales I read as a kid, LRRH resonated with me because I was just a girl, like her, who wasn't the most beautiful, charming, or intelligent of princesses found in typical fairy tales. We were both ordinary girls who didn't always make the best decisions.

And like all memorable fairy tales, there was something more just under the surface of the story. The idea that things aren't what they seem- that what appears to be your grandmother, could be something else...something dangerous that could destroy you...something sinister that could show its shiny teeth and devour you in a very unpleasant way, both scared and fascinated me. Images of red hoods and white fangs worked their way into my subconscious mind and warned me to think twice about what my eyes perceived.

This underlying aspect is why LRRH lends itself to modern horror tropes in film. Little Red becomes the heroine that must deal with fear, deceit, misplaced trust, seduction, and lost innocence to survive. More importantly, the wolf, who can be disguised as a human gets a supernatural upgrade by becoming a literal werewolf in many movie adaptations, or if not a werewolf, then something equally nightmarish hiding under a normal exterior that challenges what is real and what is illusion.

So, for spooky October, here are 4 films - not for children - that you may not have thought about, that interpret the LRRH story in interesting ways that lean towards the horror genre.
Written by: Angela Carter, Neil Jordan
Directed by: Neil Jordan
Starring: Sarah Patterson, Angela Lansbury, David Warner
This 1984 film from the UK is a real fan favorite whenever I take a poll of LRRH movies on #FairyTaleTuesday. Based upon several tales in the book, The Bloody Chamber, by Angela Carter (who also co-wrote the screenplay,) "The Company of Wolves" sets the story of Little Red Riding Hood in the dreamscape of a girl's mind. There, grandmother's tell stories and warn girls that a wolf is sometimes more than he seems. This stylish film is a lyrical dream of dark forests and girl's longings with a werewolf (and an amazing special effects werewolf transformation) thrown in the mix. After all, "..if there's a beast inside every man, he meets his match in the beast inside every woman."
Written by: David Leslie Johnson
Directed by: Catherine Hardwicke
Starring: Amanda Seyfried, Gary Oldman, Julie Christie
This version of LRRH has the villagers aware that there's a werewolf haunting the woods surrounding them. Their truce with it (by offering up animal sacrifices) is broken when the werewolf takes the life of the sister of the Little Red character (Valerie.) As the people of the village realize that the werewolf takes on the human form of one of their own during the day, it's a race to figure out who that is as more people are attacked and killed. Part romantic thriller, part horror, part mystery, it's only the Little Red character who can recognize who the true wolf is in their midst in this film.

Written & Directed by: M. Night Shyamalan
Starring: Bryce Dallas Howard, Joachin Phoenix, Adrien Brody
This twist on LRRH has it set in 19th century America instead of the usual European locale. In this variation, Little Red wears a yellow cloak, and the nameless creatures living in the surrounding forests are the ones in red. It's the elders of the town who reach an understanding with "Those We Don't Speak Of"- if villagers don't stray into their woods, then they will not come into the village. The color red becomes a banned color within the village, but it is the color of warning when someone does go into the forest, and the creatures are set loose. Weird and haunting imagery, permeated by the feeling of dread, drives this version where innocence and humanity's limitations collide.
Written by: Christophe Gans, Stephane Cabel
Directed by: Christophe Gans
Starring: Samuel Le Bihan, Mark Decascos, Emelie Dequenne
This French film takes the most liberties with the LRRH story out of the four films since it mixes the fantastical elements of the original fairy tale with that of the real historical account of the "Beast of  Gévaudan," a werewolf like creature responsible for 123 attacks in the province of Gévaudan between 1764 and 1767.  In this variation, it's the huntsman that takes center stage, yet the red imagery throughout, the innocent girl that the detective-hunters are trying to protect with a werewolf in the woods are reminiscent of the original story. However, this is not your grandmother's tale. It's an original mix of fairy tale, folktale, horror, mystery, martial arts, and historical period piece thriller. Director, Chirstophe Gans, combines high stylization, intense action, love, revenge, and redemption to create an extremely unique film.

Share your favorite Little Red Riding Hood films in the COMMENTS section below. We'd love to hear from you!
Inspired Tales
from EC's Archives
Click on the covers below:
The cloak was scarlet, like cherries in summer.
I'd never seen a grander cloak...
A cloak of white Little Red now dons...
Their grey bodies surrounded her.
Their howls swept through her
like a winter wind...
The Little Red Riding Hood Issue
to inspire your own Little Red tale...
Amanda Bergloff, writes modern fairy tales, folktales, and speculative fiction. Her work has appeared in various anthologies, including Frozen Fairy Tales, After the Happily Ever After, and Uncommon Pet Tales.
Follow her on Twitter @AmandaBergloff
Check out her Amazon Author page HERE
Also, join her every Tuesday on Twitter for #FairyTaleTuesday to share what you love about fairy tales, folktales, and myths.

Cover Art & Layout: Amanda Bergloff


Maxine said...

Wow what a wonderful collection

Katew said...

I know! Amanda excels at this.

Amanda Bergloff said...

Thanks for reading, Maxine!

AMOffenwanger said...

LRRH is an interesting fairy tale in that its versions are so very different. I always liked it, because I heard the Grimms' version where the huntsman comes to the rescue, the wolf is put out of commission and both RH and Grandmother are perfectly alright in the end. But I can't stand the Perrault version that finishes with RH and Grandmother being eaten, The End! (So much for Grimms' being the grim version of fairy tales...)

Melissa Yi said...

I’ve never seen any of these, but I’ll start with The Village. I’m intrigued by reversing the colours, and M. Night is always a good bet. Thanks!