Director: Neil Jordan
Writer: Angela Carter Neil Jordan
Starring: Angela Lansbury, David Warner, Micha Bergese, Sarah Patterson. UK. 1h 35m.
A dark and twisted gothic fairytale derived from a cult classic stage play based around the Red Riding Hood story, brought into fruition by Director Neil Jordan and as a second movie it’s both delicately beautiful and visually powerful and it’s worth a mention that Jordan later brought us Mona Lisa (1986) the Crying Game (1992) and Byzantium (2012) three movies which detail tortuous deep sexual relationships and fantasy characters.
This unsettling surreal gothic horror revolves around the life of a young girl called Rosaleen(Sarah Patterson) in both her real life and a fantasy dreamworld, in which she takes on the persona of Red Riding Hood. Set deep in a forest the young girl is often entertained by stories from her grandmother (Angela Lansbury) and these folklorish tales are evolved into an anthology of short stories, each one involving a different persona of someone afflicted by the werewolf curse, eventually the stories and the warnings meld into to her reality. The stories are as curious as their settings,Stephen Rea turns up as an unnamed young groom who has the call of nature on his wedding night and after disappearing for several years returns as an angry beast, this scene turns out to be one of the most dramatic werewolf transformation in cinema history and for me personally second only to An American Werewolf in London (1981). The bizarre Dawn Archibald deals out a slice of wolfish revenge as a witch scorned in a lovers tiff in a short tale set in the early renaissance.
The film was so highly anticipated that it managed to attract the attention and acting abilities of Terence Stamp who was uncredited and the gothic temptress Danielle Dax who appears as a wolf girl in one of Rosaleen’s short stories. Big finale is a giant twist on the Huntsman story but in keeping this is always twisted in an unusual way, and is a treat for the eyes not only for the startling wolf transformation but we are treated to a great theatrical and seductive performance from the professional dancer Micha Bergese as he tries to seduce Rosaleen.
Once the initial movie kicks off and we’re plunged into this dark fantasy world the movie takes on many surreal qualities that mimic the early works of the stop-motion masters the Quay Brothers. Each story has a slightly different flavour, the morals, while equally dark remain the same,…don’t underestimate the dark side of nature.
Based on a collection of stories written by Angela Carter under the title The Bloody Chamber, and is a sensitive retelling of these historical fables. There is a constant dream like atmosphere throughout the film which at times can be incredibly eerie but when the odd dash of humour is added in from time to time but overall it is a flourish of Hammer Horror style.
Overall the film is quite captivating not only for its moralistic stories but also the pleasant nature of its characters offset against the crazy surreal details it’s a delightful movie to see it will no doubt entertain as much as it will puzzle is audience.
R – Big Bad Wolf (2006), Red Riding Hood (2011), Pan’s Labyrinth Spanish as El laberinto del fauno (2006)
L – Fairy Tale Films, Anthologies
A – When is a Fairy Tale too dark for children…
5s – Terence Stamp, Stephen Rea