Gretel & Hansel (2020)
Director: Oz Perkins
Writers: Oz Perkins and Rob Hayes
Starring: Sophia Lillis, Sam Leakey, Charles Babalola, Jessica De Gouw, and Alice Krige
Plot: Two abandoned children find their way into a witches cabin in the middle of the woods.
Review: I keep hearing the same joke being told about Gretel & Hansel. There are some variations on it, but the basic concept is that Hollywood is so out of ideas that they are just taking the same basic fairy tales and selling them as “original” by switching up the names. I feel like this is a huge disservice to the movie itself, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Sure. Remaking a gritty version of a fairy tale isn’t the most awe inspiring thing you could do, but there’s so much craftsmanship here and legitimately creepy visuals that it simply cannot be written off so easily.
Before we get too far into this review, I do have to say that this movie will not be for everyone. It’s a very slow burn. The siblings get to the witch’s cabin about half an hour into the movie. And then they stay there. While I enjoyed the slow ramping up of the tension, I could see how others might think it’s boring. There are a lot of conversations, a lot of dreams, and not a whole lot physically happening. Personally, I really enjoyed this part. We got to get to know these characters better. The creepiness crept in. And there’s just this sense of dread in the air the entire time. But, if someone wanted to just call it pretentious and boring I don’t think I could argue with them.
I also really liked the new take on the story. It’s called Gretel & Hansel because this is very much her story. She’s the one with the story arc here. They are kicked out of their childhood home very early on in the movie. Gretel, who is a few years older than Hansel in this version, must help her brother survive, first the woods and then the witch. Also, the witch is trying to recruit her into witchcraft, which is an element of the story I don’t remember being in any previous versions. It works really well here, not just as a different take but as symbolism for her coming into her own as an adult. Sophia Lillis, who you might know from the It movies, absolutely nails this part too. She’s a really strong actor and sells a lot of the inner turmoil the character is going through. Again though, one could argue that these changes aren’t enough to justify retelling a story for the millionth time and while I disagree I couldn’t blame them for it. This all just happened to hit with me.
One thing I would not allow someone to trash though is the effect the visuals have in this movie. Because. They. Are. Creepy. From the very beginning, they give off a sense of dread with shadows just watching our characters walk through the woods. Then, we get real up tight and close with the characters as they’re trapped in the cabin, giving us a nice cramped, claustrophobic feeling. And the dream sequences feel very nightmarish in ways that feel very real. This all added up to me being on edge the entire time, which is impressive seeing how I already know this story and not much is actually going on. I haven’t seen any of Oz Perkins’ other work, but I’ve heard good things and this movie definitely makes me want to check them out.
TL;DR: While some may find it pretentious and boring, I thought Gretel & Hansel was a very good, very creepy, slow burn horror retelling of a grim tale (pun intended).
Score: 8/10 (Great)