Gretel & Hansel is a dark reimagined cautionary fairytale that puts you under a spell.
Gretel & Hansel is a supernatural dark fairytale retold in a visual style that befits Osgood Perkins. Like I Am the Pretty Thing that Lives in the House (2016) and February/The Blackcoat’s Daughter (2015) it has a beautiful dreamlike surreal, poetic style, with symbolism and a dark atmosphere. It’s a slow burn, that gradually puts you under the spell of this stylish storytelling. Although the story itself is rather simpel and stays true to the fairytale Hansel and Gretel, Oz Perkins made it his own as a modern updated version that won’t disappoint his fans.
After their father has died and their mother has fallen ill, Gretel has to find work to survive and takes her little brother Hansel with her everywhere she goes. When she refuses to take on an abusive job, their mother kicks them out to fend for themselves. After being rescued by a hunter and set on the right path to the forest keepers, they stumble upon the little house of a reclusive woman who takes them in. But every house has its secret hidden rooms and although things seem pretty good at first, it takes a dark turn.
Why you should watch it
If you are a fan of the first two films of Osgood Perkins, this one ticks the boxes. The cinematography is beautifully done. The contrast between light and dark, creating shadows, the autumn colors, the use of negative space that increases the focus on objects or persons in the room, the framing of the shots, the duration of lingering shots, it all adds to the visual style that creates the moody and dark but surreal atmosphere.
The figures in the woods, the never relenting feeling of danger in the woods, the mushrooms with an hallucinatory effect, the creepy little girl are all elements that increase a disturbing feeling. The musical sore is dark and moody and some sound effects can be harsh and sharp.
The way in which they speak is done almost in a poetic way, giving it a feeling of an old fairytale. The setting, the woods, the clothing, resemble some undetermined time, or land or universe, you know you cannot enter. It stands alone, it’s a story by itself. The style distinguishes this reimagined story of Gretel & Hansel from the original fairytale.
For the story is build upon Gretel, shot from here perspective fortified by her voice-over telling us her story as well as a story, a fairytale she once heard, it’s also a coming of age story that empowers Gretel as a young woman. She becomes an individual capable of choosing her own path. Not to be suppressed by men, told what to do or who to be by older women, or even held back by her little brother. This story becomes her story, the story she always told Hansel. It’s therefore a story within a story in which her voice-over, that reflects her thoughts, play an important part.
It’s creepy at times, with some scares, original horror scenes and surrealistic dreams and nightmares. With a slow pace it doesn’t lull you to sleep, but rather puts you under a hypnotic spell, just like the witch is trying to do. With the main focus on style, both visual as auditory it’s meant to be experienced as a disturbing feeling.
The story isn’t hard to grasp like his other two films. As the story of the original fairytale mainly stayed the same, but with a rather different focus and perspective, this third film is maybe his easiest and most accessible so far. It will appeal to a broader audience, but still an audience that will appreciate an artistic style.
My favorite part
The scene where the black substance is poured out of the drainpipe and forms itself slowly into a puddle from where the witch rises, and the black puddle becomes her black dress, is an original and beautifully shot scene. But the dream sequences are of a surreal beauty too and scary at the same time. But the details of the whole film, the framing and the shots, the colors and lighting are a delight to watch, but aren’t obtrusive, but rather serve the style of the story.
Sophia Lillis is growing as an actrice, but the witch played by Alice Krige draws a subtle attention to herself, strained, fierce but always holding back, who she is, what her intentions are. Hiding the horrible things inside, the terrifying things that lie beneath the surface both metaphorically and literally of what power can be, can do. It’s a perfectly told fairytale, a cautionary tale, reimagined for a new age of horror and a new generation.
Scare factor: ★★★☆☆
Surreal factor: ★★★☆☆
Originality factor: ★★★★☆
Cast and crew
Gretel & Hansel is directed by Osgood Perkins and written by Rob Hayes. It stars Sophia Lillis (Gretel), Alice Krige (Holda), Jessica De Gouw (young Holda) and Samuel Leakey (Hansel).
Duration: 87 minutes. Music: Robin Coudert. Cinematography: Galo Olivares. Edited by: Josh Ethier, Julia Wong. Produced by: Fred Berger, Brian Kavanaugh-Jones. Production companies: Automatik Entertainment, Orion Picture, BRON Studios, Creative Wealth Media Finance, Wild Atlantic Pictures. Distributed by: United Artists Releasing.