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Movie Review: Red Riding Hood (2011)

March 16, 2011 6 comments

Woman wearing red cape in front of woods.Summary:
Valerie has always lived in a small village surrounded by a dark forest haunted by a werewolf every month at the full moon.  For the last ten years the wolf has kept the peace with the town by accepting a sacrifice of a beloved livestock.  Now Valerie is a woman and planning on eloping with her lover, Peter, to escape an undesired marriage to the smith’s son, Henry.  Just as they are about to elope, though, Valerie’s sister is found dead.  The victim of the wolf.  Now the town brings in a priest of questionable character in an attempt to rid them of the curse once and for all.

Review:
To me this film was truly all about atmosphere, being a feast for the eyes like the village is a feast for the wolf.  Although the first few moments of the film are set in harvest time, the rest of it is during winter, complete with beautiful snowfall scenes.  The village itself is simultaneously sinister and picturesque.  What truly makes the atmosphere though is the costuming.  Gorgeous elbow-length knitted gloves.  Covetable dresses with the perfect waist-length.  Sleeveless cloaks worn by all in demure shades that truly make Valerie’s red cloak pop when she receives it from her grandmother.  The entire atmosphere screams fairy tale.

The story was of course re-written with red riding hood made into a young woman instead of a little girl.  The character of the wolf became more complex than just the big bad wolf in the woods.  However, the key creepy elements of the fairy tale remain.  In all honesty, I was surprised at how good of an updated adaptation this was, and I’ve seen my fair share of fairy tale adaptations.

The one draw-back was the awkward love triangle inserted into the story.  There was one scene in particular that simply screamed “This director also directed Twilight!”  Ugh.  I’m getting incredibly sick of love triangles existing in any story that features young adults.  Plus this scene elicited laughter from the audience, which I am pretty sure was not what the director was going for.

Overall, however, this was a delightful adaptation of a beloved fairy tale.  I recommend it to lovers of fairy tales and adaptations, as well as those who enjoy an exquisite atmosphere in film.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: AMC movie theater

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Book Review: It by Stephen King

February 3, 2011 2 comments

Creepy looking clown.

Summary:
In the late 1950s in the small town of Derry, Maine, children are being mysteriously murdered.  Seven misfit and outcast kids band together to face It, and they think they’ve beaten it, but 27 years later, the murders return.  Vaguely remembering a promise they all made, the now adults return to their hometown of Derry to face It again.

Review:
This tale is largely known in the States as “that scary clown story,” so for years I avoided it.  I’ve been terrified of clowns for as long as I can remember.  My parents tell me that the first time I ever saw one, I screamed uncontrollably.  My only encounter with Stephen King’s It (as it’s known in the States) was with a diorama of the clown from the movie in a haunted house I went through in Salem, MA.  It scared the crap out of me, so I was a bit nervous to read this book.  However, having read the Dark Tower series, I wanted to read all of the other stories that King lists as taking place in the same general universe, and It was one of them.  So I manned up and read it, and boy am I ever glad I did.

This is not a cheesy scary clown story.  What it is is first a character study and second a commentary on growing up.  The dual horror of being a kid and being excited and afraid to grow up and being an adult and being excited and concerned that you are grown up and may have lost a part of yourself in childhood.  King very clearly demonstrates that being a kid isn’t all fun and games–most of the kids in the group of 7 have bad home lives–but there is an essential hope that children have that is hard to reclaim as an adult.  A child is able to have a horrible experience with a shape-shifting werewolf or a bunch of bullies and then walk a couple of blocks and forget about it and be excited to see American Bandstand that night.  Children are incredibly resilient, and King demonstrates that.

What makes the story though is the return to Derry 27 years later.  King puts a hope in adults that although they may not remember exactly what it is to be a resilient child, they can still repossess that power in later life.  Although the first inclination of kids to survive is to forget the bad, an adult can remember and still survive.  For at the beginning, the characters don’t want to remember what happened to them as kids.

Did he remember?  Just enough not to want to remember any more. (Location 1416)

Yet the characters are brave and face their childhoods.  Yes, King personifies both the childhood evils and the remembering of them as an adult with It, but that’s part of what makes the story powerful.  There’s a reason people refer to memories as personal demons.  That’s how they feel.  In the end, the way the characters grow and change and overcome is to find

A way to be people that had nothing to do with their parents’ fears, hopes, constant demands.  (Location5631)

Beyond the excellent symbolism and allegory for the experience of surviving bad things in your childhood and facing them again as an adult, the horror itself is wonderful.  It comes at just the right frequency so that the reader settles into a sense of security only to be blind-sided by a terrifically horrifying experience.  There were sections that literally had me jumping at the sound of my own phone ringing in the silence.  These are some of the better passages of creepy horror that I’ve read written by King.

Of course, the allusions to the universe of the Gunslinger are there.  It gave me chills to recognize them as I read.  Among just a few were the turtle, spiders, and other worlds than these.  One particular line that gave me chills of recognition that other fans of the Dark Tower series will be sure to appreciate is

Eddie had drawn his aspirator.  He looked like a crazed malnourished gunslinger with some weird pistol.  (Location 20760)

Combining everything from the horror to the allegory of facing childhood demons to the allusions to the Dark Tower series make Stephen King’s It a remarkable read.  I recommend it to fans of Stephen King, as well as anyone interested in the idea of childhood demons who feels they can handle passages of horror.

5 out of 5 stars

Source: Amazon

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