Starring: Sophia Lillis, Sam Leakey, Alice Krige
Director: Oz Perkins
Running Time: 87 mins
Gretel & Hansel is an American film about a sister and brother who find themselves with no home in the middle of a famine, leaving them roaming the woods in search of shelter until they encounter a witch’s house.
If there were ever a fairytale that was calling for a creepy, ominous film adaptation, it was always Hansel and Gretel. Switching the brother and sister’s ages as well as names, the film takes an undeniably eerie look at an already unsettling story, making for an eye-catching horror-drama, albeit not one with the most riveting narrative depth.
Film adaptations of folktale horror have been very popular of late, with the likes of The VVitch, Midsommar and more taking their cues from Middle Age tales, and telling decidedly creepy stories combined with modern horror sensibilities.
Gretel & Hansel follows a similar beat, now taking on a classic fairytale with a well-known propensity for darkness. The original Grimm’s story is undoubtedly unnerving, but this film does a great job to bring that eerie atmosphere to life in really striking fashion.
From the start, the film’s bleak and grey visuals give it a harsh, rugged atmosphere, making the siblings’ ordeal as they find themselves alone in the forest all the more unnerving. Then, upon arriving at the witch’s house, the film takes on a powerfully ominous atmosphere, using both disturbing visual cues and the creepiest pieces of folklore to really chill you to the bone.
That makes Gretel & Hansel a really eye-catching watch throughout, with its unsettling atmosphere by far its strongest suit.
However, when it comes to the actual story it tells, the film isn’t quite as captivating. Certainly, the original fairytale is a classic story, but you likely already know it, or at least can understand it in less than a minute.
So, in order to bring a new perspective to the table, Gretel & Hansel turns the classic story into a coming-of-age drama, with the focus of the narrative squarely on a young adult-aged Gretel, as she begins to discover her womanhood, represented by her conflict with the witch and development of new abilities as a result.
On the surface, it’s an interesting angle to take, and it certainly does make for some intriguing sequences – particularly as we start to see Gretel take a stance against the witch. However, as a central theme, the film doesn’t do enough to make Gretel’s coming-of-age an emotionally affecting line of focus, and it only really hits home in a few short sequences and an excellent ending.
As a result, though interesting, Gretel & Hansel fails to tap into your emotions as best as it could, paling in comparison to the way The VVitch deals with grief, and Midsommar deals with weakening relationships.
Overall, then, I liked Gretel & Hansel for its striking atmosphere and often unique perspective on an almost universally known fairytale. It takes some interesting spins on the original story, and although it doesn’t quite manage to wring any particularly riveting dramatic depth out, it’s still an eye-catching and memorably ominous folk horror movie. So, that’s why I’m giving it a 7.2.