Oh, Grandmother, what a big, bad movie you have.
So, apparently what happened here is that for whatever reason director Catherine Hardwicke did not get to make the second and third “Twilight” movies, so she decided to make a different hot supernatural teenage romance triangle instead, even keeping one of the same actors in a similar role (Billy Burke as the girl’s father). Twilight may not be great literature but it sure feels like it next to this mess.
Hardwicke’s two great strengths are her background as a production designer and her skill in working with teenagers. Both desert her here. We’re in trouble right from the start, when we see the little village. Instead of evoking fairy tales or rustic, rough-hewn country construction, it looks over-produced and over-designed, like a Christmas ornament rejected by Thomas Kinkade.
The village has maintained an uneasy peace with a savage wolf. Each full moon, they leave out their choicest livestock for him, and the rest of the time he leaves them alone. But the fragile pact is broken when a girl in the village is killed. Valerie (doe-eyed Amanda Seyfried) is the younger sister of the girl who was killed. She is a spirited young woman who has been betrothed by her parents to Henry (Max Irons) but plans to run away with Peter (Shiloh Fernandez). With her sister gone and the town at risk, she is not sure about leaving her parents and grandmother (Julie Christie).
Henry’s father is killed in an expedition to kill the wolf, but the hunters bring back a wolf head and prepare to celebrate. But the local priest (Lukas Haas of “Witness”) has brought in an expert (Gary Oldman), who tells them that the animal they killed was an ordinary wolf. The creature they must kill is a werewolf. That means he or she is human by day. And that means that the killer they are looking for is one of them, someone who lives in the village. Suspicion and betrayal become as critical a threat to the village as the wolf itself.
But neither as as big a threat to the movie as the inability of Hardwicke and screenwriter David Johnson to maintain a consistent tone, with drippy voiceovers (“he always had a way of making me want to break the rules”), anachronistic howlers like “Get me outta here,” and a sort of 18th century rave dance-off. The fake-outs intended to be archetypal and creepy are simply silly, and by the time someone yells, “What happened to the rabbit, Valerie!” any connection to the power of the original story is gone for good.
Those of you who know what the Gothika rule is know what to do!