Gretel & Hansel
gretel & hansel | hansel and gretel | oz perkins | rob hayes | sophia lillis | charles babalola | alice krige | based on | short stories | brothers grimm | fantasy | thriller | canada | ireland | united states | south africa | remake | samuel leakey | witch | witchcraft
Film: Gretel & Hansel
Director: Oz Perkins
Writer: Rob Hayes
Starring: Sophia Lillis, Charles Babalola and Alice Krige
This was a movie that I was pretty excited about when I heard that it was coming out. I’ve seen both of Oz Perkins’ films, The Blackcoat’s Daughter and I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House. I really liked the former and I’ve in the minority that digs the latter as well. Coming into this, I had an idea of how this would go as I knew the style. My girlfriend also agreed to come with me so that also made it nice as well. The synopsis here is a long time ago in a distant fairy tale countryside, a young girl leads her little brother into a dark wood in desperate search of food and work, only to stumble upon a nexus of terrifying evil.
We start this movie learning about tale of this beautiful girl in a small village. They all know that she is not going to survive her first winter, so the father takes her to a witch that sits on a hill under a triangle to get the curse removed from her. The problem though is that the witch also bestows a gift of sight on her. The townspeople come to her to learn the future, but her prophecies never end well. We also learn she has darker abilities. She is then left in the forest to fend for herself. As a way of revenge, there’s a hole in the ground the she lures children to.
It then shifts to Gretel (Sophia Lillis) she introduces herself and that home life is tough. Her father passed away and her mother is struggling to provide for her and her little brother, Hansel (Samuel Leakey). He is attached to her hip and comes on an interview for Gretel to become a housekeeper for nobility in the area. The interview doesn’t go great as we see what he’s really interviewing her for.
Her mother isn’t happy that Gretel didn’t go along with it and kicks the both of them out. It really is more that she can no longer provide them and has lost her mind a bit to be honest. The two children then set off into the woods. They encounter some creepy things as well as a hunter, Charles Babalola. He directs them where they can go to earn their keep and safety. Things don’t go as planned though as they come to an odd house that belongs to Holda (Alice Krige). The two of them semi-force their way in, but she gives them food and shelter. Gretel always tells Hansel to be weary of gifts and we learn the truth of what is going on here as Holda mentors Gretel to her true potential.
I felt that I needed to give as well of a recap as I could as to not spoil things, but this also doesn’t have the most complex story. I personally dug that they use the fable of Hansel and Gretel, but Perkins also does a bit of his own thing as well.
We actually kind of get two different stories going on here. The tale that is presented in the beginning is the history, but it is also considered to be almost an urban legend. The two stories converge as well, which I really liked. Much like the fairy tales that we grew up with, this is an allegory that is presenting a couple of different things, but doing it in a fantastical type of way. One of which is puberty and Gretel becoming a woman. There’s an intriguing scene where she gets her first period, which seems to be brought on by something that Holda does and she predicts it. The other allegory is that of motherhood. The two kids’ mother is horrible. She is broken mentally and can’t care for her children and forces them to fend for themselves. This forces Gretel to almost become a young mother, trying to raise a child that she isn’t ready for. It is interesting to have a cautionary tale like this in an era where popular shows for reality TV are like 16 and Pregnant or Teen Mom.
Something that I really dug though was how empowering for women this movie is. The young girl at the start is cast out for her power. Holda is a powerful witch. We see that Gretel has some subtle power in the beginning and Holda hints that there’s much more that is stored within her. She’s out to release this power and to help her cultivate it.
This movie does seem to be missing something though. I do think that the two stories are interesting. I even think the reveal of Holda with the original story that is introduced was good as well along with her interactions with the two children. I just feel there’s something from the movie that really just made me not feel completely satisfied. I’ll admit that I’ve listened to two podcasts about it and it was similar feel as well. I was never bored, but something felt like it was missing still. The ending was solid as well in my opinion though.
That will take me to the acting of this, which I thought was pretty strong. Lillis I think does really well in her facial expressions and I like the changes that come over her character in this movie. She is the star for sure. Krige did an amazing job though as well. She is so creepy and so mysterious that I thought it worked for sure. It is intriguing though as the movie goes along here that she kind of disappears a bit and I wasn’t the biggest fan there. Jessica De Gouw was quite attractive and I thought she was fine as well as Leakey and the rest of the cast.
Since this movie is dealing with a witch and there’s magic, this movie does use some CGI. To be honest, I really didn’t have any issues with it and I’ll let it slide. What I really wanted to talk about though was the cinematography which I thought was great. Visually this movie is stunning and the lighting really helps here as well. It really does feel like we’re in a fairy tale and it is able to convey some things through this without needing to actually tell us as well.
The last thing to go over would be the soundtrack. This was also something that I really did enjoy. A podcast brought up how it doesn’t fit the traditional string instruments you’d get a movie like this, but more like a synth sound from the 80’s. Whatever it is, it made me feel uncomfortable and helps to enhance the feel the movie is going for. Some also had issues with the voice-over we get from Lillis, but I didn’t mind it. It wasn’t necessarily needed. It just didn’t ruin anything for me.
Now with that said, there are some aspects to this movie that I really liked. I like the back-story that have here and a different take on the fairy tale as well. The social commentary that this movie is trying to get across is something else that I can get behind along with the amazing visuals and the soundtrack that fit along with it. There’s something just missing from the story that I’m not entirely sure what it is though. I thought the acting was good across the board as well. I do think this is going to be polarizing for some people as it is pretty arthouse if I’m honest. My rating here would be above average.
My Rating: 6.5 out of 10