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‘Red Riding Hood’ Soundtrack: An Echoed Triumph of Gothic Perversion

Catherine Hardwicke is in the interesting position of trying to make her films evolve within her respective niche while ultimately being defined by another–– Twilight. Lining up all of Hardwicke’s films––Thirteen, Lords of Dogtown, The Nativity Story, Twilight, and now Red Riding Hood––they are are somewhat similar in content (youth seeking youth, rebellion, identity). Interestingly, Hardwicke has an architecture degree, spending her early film days as a production designer for various movies before making her move into film direction with Thirteen. The relevancy of this is that the intricate set design, and unique design at that, is usually the most striking component of her films (save Thirteen, as it is a just great film) along with the construction of photography. Twilight will be panned and ridiculed until it finally reaches the depths, but the fact cannot be argued that Hardwicke harnessed the raw natural energy of the west coast and sculpted its imagery into the film to give it presence and credibility. She again has done this with Red Riding Hood; the cinematography, set design, and now costuming are absolutely stunning––the visual alone of Amanda Seyfried traversing a snow-covered cliff while donning the red cape is beyond captivating.

But what does all this have to do with a soundtrack?

Well, the listing is composed of two Fever Ray songs, an intoxicating song by the Big Pink and the rest composed of original score by Brian Reitzell (with Alex Heffes and Anthony Gonzales). This may seem unremarkable, however, the use of these particular artists signals not only a foray into a more experimental and musically adept venture, but also the sense of creating that auteur-style relationship many famed directors have with specific composers and musicians. Hardwicke seems like she may be trying to shed the labels that previous opportunities have given her and move increasingly deeper into her true style and expression of film. As noted, she has a very specific and attuned eye for scenery shots and cinematography, and now with this film she has added the gothic and seemingly Fever Ray-inspired costumes and the very fine-tuned soundtrack listing. With controlling more of the peripheral elements of the film, it has become a more cohesive project, which didn’t necessarily save it from been a disappointing film, but did make certain areas of it great; one being this soundtrack.

Reitzell is famed for projects with Sophia Coppola (The Virgin Suicides, Lost in Translation, Marie Antoinette), and films like Friday Night Lights and 30 Days of Night, collaborating with other artists to create the ambient, lush richness that compliments the character’s emotions of alienation, desperation, or fear. In Red Riding Hood, Reitzell has again composed an ambient-style lushness, but the instrumental staccatos and darkly layered arrangements follow the gothic and sinister path that Hardwicke has imagined for this film. The score is brooding and haunted, interpreting dark magic into edgy music and devious silence instead of based on a related human connection that his previous works have. ‘Towers of the Void’, with its banging pipe sound and spindly-plucked guitar, is the perfect opening for the soundtrack because it takes it time to build towards meaning and craft presence; each bang echoing the cloaked loneliness and terror of the world of Red Riding Hood’s village. It is sombre and romantic at moments and also suspicious and conniving at others, obviously adapting the lover plot within these moments. The collaborative effort, ‘Just a Fragment of You’, features Anthony Gonzales of M83 alongside Reitzell, where they draw this expansive horizon of visionary depth. The song is surprisingly uplifting because of the hope-filled vocals placed atop ever-flowering synth rhythms, making itself stand out against its dreary counterparts. Markedly different, Gonzales and Reitzell disperse with the heavy, beating music to a very airy and flowing style more akin to his efforts on The Virgin Suicides.

Fever Ray, one half of electronic duo and cult heroes The Knife, also contributes two songs: the exclusive ‘The Wolf’, and ‘Keep the Streets Empty for Me’, the former being a track used in the trailer. ‘The Wolf’ is by all means the absolute epitome of this soundtrack in meaning, content, and execution. Fever Ray creates this very contorted, almost perverse style of music wherein she manipulates her vocals, her instruments and at points her mind, to craft something so gut-wrenching yet beautiful it is unclear whether to be terrified or astounded. An artist like no other, Hardwicke is beyond lucky to have this contribution as it is the defining moment in not only the trailer but in the soundtrack. The opening of the song signals absolute fright by the use of the almost ship-like blow horns and the hollowed out and dissipating notes. Each wavering holler that Fever Ray belts instantly conveys an image of her, head-back, throat-swaddled, calling, beckoning for the Wolf or other beast to appear and charge itself as demonic.

Fever Ray and Reitzell are artists dripping with clout and this soundtrack supports this. If Hardwicke’s goal was indeed to create her own auteur status, then aligning herself with these two individuals is a step in the right direction. And, if she can have Fever Ray produce and create tracks like ‘The Wolf’, then by all means I champion this partnership and look forward to its continuing and future achievements.

–  Kaitlin McNabb

Track Listing (selected tracks highlighted)

  1. Towers of the Void- Brian Reitzell
  2. Kids- Brian Reitzell & Alex Heffes
  3. Dead Sister- Brian Reitzell & Alex Heffes
  4. The Wolf- Fever Ray
  5. Mt. Grimoor- Brian Reitzell & Alex Heffes
  6. Tavern Stalker- Brian Reitzell & Alex Heffes
  7. Grandma’s House- Brian Reitzell & Alex Heffes
  8. Keep the Streets Empty from Me- Fever Ray
  9. Wolf Attack Suite- Brian Reitzell & Alex Heffes
  10. Just a Fragment of You- Brian Reitzell & Anthony Gonzales
  11. The Reveal- Brian Reitzell & Alex Heffes
  12. Finale- Brian Reitzell & Alex Heffes
  13. Crystal Visions- The Big Pink
  14. End Suite- Brian Reitzell