By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)
The Grimm fairy tale, Hansel & Gretel, has inpired multiple adaptations in various media. Often comedic or juvenile, most film adaptations have failed to explore the dark undertones that the Brothers Grimm brought to their bewitching story. Writer/director Oz Perkins and co-writer Rob Hayes have made the latest adaptation a dark, atmospheric, and nightmarish affair, but one that teenagers can handle. With an eerily impish performance by Alice Krige and an eminent turn by Sophia Lillis, Gretel & Hansel is a dark and macabre fairy tale for the ages.
After the untimely death of their father, siblings Gretel (Lillis) and Hansel (Sam Leaky) have struggled with their mother to survive enduring hardship and hunger. When their mother can no longer care for them due to a mental breakdown, she sends them away to fend for themselves. While on the way to the nearest village, the famished children come across a cottage in the woods where they discover a lavish feast and a warm and inviting host, an elderly and seemingly lonely woman named Holda (Krige). In exchange for some assistance with her chores, the sweet, but stern lady allows Gretel and Hansel to stay with her for a couple of days until they can work up the strength to leave. Gretel seems to have a sixth sense about things, however, and suspects mal intent on the part of Holda.
Oz Perkins has made what may be the creepiest adaptation of the iconic Grimm fairy tale. Not only does the movie look absolutely gorgeous, Perkins’ slow-burning aspproach really adds to the film’s ethereal style. Working with a fantastic production design team and cinematographer Galo Olivares proves to the perfect collaboration that brings a real artistry to the movie’s look, mood and tone. Both Perkins and Rob Hayes have also penned a solid screenplay that brings a more modern angle to the story and characters.
It isn’t simply a title switcheroo, Gretel definitely plays a more dominant role as the elder sibling. The movie is mostly experienced through her eyes and senses and the story becomes a battle of wits and psychology between protagonist and antagonist. It‘s Sophia Lillis performs superbly in this role and Alice Krige gives a sublime, wicked turn as Holda, a devil’s advocate of sorts. Young actor Sam Leakey also performs well as the charming and precocious Hansel.
Teen and adult fans of gorgeously conceived and executed fantasy horror are sure to relish wbat Oz Perkins and his crew have brought to Gretel & Hansel. It is a delightfully gloomy and ominous take on the children’s tale with an empowered fenale protagonist. This actually is the first Oz Perkins film I have ever seen. Not only do I look forward to checking out his previous works, I also happily anticipate what he will do next.