"Little Red Riding Hood" Crime Films: Criminal Themes and Critical Variations

  • Pauline Greenhill
  • Steven Kohm University of Winnipeg


Over the past century, crime films have reflected and at times countered conventional and professional wisdom about crimes causes and appropriate societal reactions to criminal transgression. Since the 1990s, Western crime films reflect not only changing cinematic styles but also hardening political discourses around individual criminal responsibility, and growing public fear of random violence and predatory strangers. The narrative structure and imagery of "Little Red Riding Hood" trenchantly encapsulates these trends. The tale conventionally warns about the timeless dangers of predatory violence and the monsters (animals) lurking to prey on the innocent and the weak. But in a neo-liberal era characterized by retreating and downsized state agencies of social welfare and security, it can also be cast as a lesson in self-reliance and the necessity for private action to forestall crime. The familiar story provides a convenient cultural referent to elucidate social, political and criminological shifts around issues of crime and crime control at the end of the twentieth century. Films we examine include Freeway (Dir. Matthew Bright, 1996), The Wolves of Kromer (Dir. Will Gould, 1998), Promenons-nous dans les bois/Deep in the Woods (Dir. Lionel Delplanque, 2000), Little Erin Merryweather (Dir. David Morwick, 2003), Red Riding Hood (Dir. Giacomo Cimini, 2003), The Woodsman (Dir. Nicole Kassell, 2003), and Hard Candy (Dir. David Slade, 2005). All explore the unfolding of crimes, their investigation, and/or their consequences. They consider institutional and societal reactions to crime and transgression, including criminal trials, incarceration, parole, and vigilantism.