There’s a scene in Tim Burton’s fantastic Ed Wood where Martin Landeau as Bela Lugosi explains to Depp’s Wood that if he wants to get lucky with a young lady he should take her to see a horror movie. He says it connects with them on an unconscious level. Lately that formula seems to be quite popular with a new wave of horror fiction that’s less about the blood and more about the mythic, tragic romance of it all, with the target audience being girls in their teens and younger who feel like these doomed love affairs are so close to what they themselves are feeling.
There’s no greater example of this than Twilight, the immensely popular books that then became immensely popular movies. Now the director of the first Twilight movie, Catherine Hardwicke, now tackles a new take on an old tale.
The new movie Red Riding Hood seeks to bring the classic childrens tale into the Twilight age. Amanda Seyfried stars as Valerie, owner of the titular cloak. Set in a medieval village, Valerie finds herself the object of two young men’s affection: Henry, the man her parents have arranged for her to marry and Peter, the outcast orphan tradesman who no one in the village quite approves of but who Valerie feels more passionately about. The village is constantly terrorized by a werewolf and they eventually call in a professional hunter (Gary Oldman) who suspects that the werewolf is actually one of the villagers. It’s all very angsty, dealing with moon cycles and forbidden love.
The first poster for the movie was all spooky and almost looked like it was trying to be artistic. Depicted as a painting, it shows Red walking through what we can assume to be a very dangerous forest, what with the massive thorns coming out of the trees. Red is also the only color we see against the monochromatic forest as it’s used not only for the character’s hood but also the title treatment. At the top we’re told to “Believe the legend. Beware the wolf.” which is helpful and we’re also informed that this is coming from the director of Twilight, which is sure to be a big selling point.
The second poster also makes that point at the top but this time goes on to inform us that she’s bringing us an updated version of a very old legend. Seyfried is seen this time dashing breathlessly through that same thorn-tree forest, red cloak billowing behind her as the snow blows. We get the same tagline as before as well, so the main addition to this version of the one-sheet is that we see Seyfried in person this time around.
The first trailer, like the first poster, is all about setting a mood. We see Seyfried being romanced by one of the boys in the village before returning and find that the wolf that everyone’s afraid of has killed again. We then see that the townsfolk, including the leader of the village (Oldman) are looking to put an end to this once and for all and think that she knows who it is or at least can lead them to it.
The main point of the trailer is to show all the smoldering romance that’s underscoring the hunt for the wolf, as Seyfried’s character has to choose between the boy she’s been setup to marry and the one that she’s more passionate about. So along with that there’s the search for whoever might be killing the other villagers while in wolf form, but that’s really just an excuse to get the characters in conflict with each other, at least based on this clip.
The next trailer starts out by more immediately presenting the danger the wolf presents to the village, danger that necessitates the bringing in of a professional in the form of Oldman, who will stop at nothing to find out who there is the wolf. It then gets more clearly into how the love triangle between Red and the two guys who are pursuing her ties into the hunt for the creature and how she’s used by Oldman and the other village leaders to try and lure it out to the open.
This trailer is a lot more action oriented, particularly in how it breaks out the techno-dance music to try and set a frantic tone to the proceedings. It also contains a couple of lines that are pulled, though in somewhat different contexts, from the original fairy tale in an attempt to wink at the audience and get us to, I think, chuckle along with what’s happening.
The movie’s official website opens by playing the second trailer as full browser video before giving way to a recreation of the second poster’s art and a rotating series of pull quotes from early reviews of the movie.
The first section of content is “Videos,” which just has the two trailers but not any of the TV spots that were produced. “About the Movie” has a decent Synopsis, Cast and Filmmaker career histories and Production Notes you can download as a PDF.
If my counting is accurate there are almost 50 stills in the “Gallery” that mix in some behind-the-scenes shots with the production photos. “Downloads” has some Wallpapers, Icons and two banners (they’re labeled Posters but they’re banners) for you to put on your hard drive.
“Partners” has information on the cross-promotions that were run in conjunction with the movie as well as the tie-in novel and other books and “Sweepstakes” repurposes much of the same information along with links to sites that ran contests related to the film.
“Beware the Wolf” is a tool that lets you put your own photo into the red hood to see what you look like and “The Wisdom of the Cards” is an online Tarot card reader that will spit out your fortune after you select a few cards from the deck.
The Facebook page for the movie has photos and videos as usual but it also brings over – or at least links back to – many of the features of the official website such as Downloads and Partners. There’s also, of course, a Wall full of updates from people who are super-excited to see the film.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
There were plenty of advertising done for the movie in the form of TV spots. About eight or nine different spots were produced, all of which took different approaches to selling the movie as some emphasized the werewolf and the stylized horror nature of the film while others were more interested in selling the romantic triangle that Red finds herself in.
Mall-based retailer Hot Topic, exclusive online shopping service SeenOn (which specializes in fashions that were featured on TV and in movies) and frozen yogurt proprietor Red Mango all signed on as promotional partners SeenOn ran a sweepstakes that awarded a home town private screening of the movie and Red Mango gave away a $500 gift card and a trip to Hollywood that included a tour of Warner Bros. studio.
Media and Publicity
Media buzz around the movie, at least in the early days, wasn’t all that high. People discussed the film’s marketing materials and there was some discussion about whether the young Irons would become the next heartthrob movie icon (Los Angeles Times, 2/10/11) for girls to swoon over but that was about it for a good long while.
Of course being from director Hardwicke the topic of Twilight was bound to come up and the director took the opportunity to revisit the circumstances surrounding her departure from that franchise and other details.
There was also mention in the press of the novelization of the story (Los Angeles Times, 3/8/11) which came out just a couple months ago. The movie was in active production as the book was being written and Hardwicke was actively involved in the multimedia editions of that novel and was even the person who conceived of the book and pitched it and all the add-ons that went along with it.
It should go without saying that I’m not exactly right square in the middle of the target audience for this movie. In fact I’m about as far (disposition wise at the very least) as you can get from the aimed for demographic.
So while there’s nothing here that is particularly attractive to me I can see where the same sort of group that made the Twilight movies into such big hits would also be drawn in to give this one a try. It hits many of the same notes as the campaigns for those movies and features the same sort of story, so really it’s a matter of just not screwing it up, which I don’t think the campaign has done.
In fact what’s going to be most interesting is seeing how the film fairs in its second, third and fourth weekends as word-of-mouth from those who were brought in by the campaign spreads out. The demographic that’s being sought after here is, I’m sure, going to spread the word via text and in person so if those first audiences aren’t impressed they will let their friends who couldn’t make it know immediately.