Scriptwriter Rob Hayes inverses the title and makes several changes here in Gretel and Hansel. Two children still end up in the house of a cannibalistic witch, but their journey before and after this is weaved into a dream-like fantasy.
The people behind the camera are able to create an unsettling and visually arresting movie about their journey. Cinematography, production design, and film score combine to give Gretel and Hansel a memorable look and feel.
Symmetric framing, stark color contrasts, and a combination of modern with antique produce great images to accompany its deliberate pace. As a result, you can surmise that neither the creepy forest nor the sparsely lit indoors offer safety. But you remain curious to see how this reimagining of Hansel and Gretel turns out.
In this version, 16-year old Gretel (Sophia Lillis) and 8-year old Hansel (Samuel Leakey) stumble upon an A-frame house after managing to survive the woods. It’s not made of treats, but the smell of cake is wafting out of its intense candlelit windows. The hungry Hansel sneaks in and gets caught. Gretel is forced to follow.
The main change and core of this movie is Gretel’s coming-of-age tale. Each night her dreams become more disturbing, but the witch offers her a path that’s too strong to reject. This, of course, has a catch. When something is given, something is also taken away. Gretel comes to her senses and finds a way to outsmart the witch.
All of this, with a perfectly cast Alice Krige, makes Gretel and Hansel an arthouse fantasy with a touch of horror. It’s a slow burn and it doesn’t settle for cheap jumpscares.
The main problem is that the movie overstates its intentions. It also spends more time serving visuals than fleshing out the coming-of-age tale within it. Eventually, Gretel makes a choice. Unfortunately, the lackluster climax makes all your patience worthless.
Hansel gets annoying and whiny that you’d wonder why the movie doesn’t commit to its other theme – how our attachments to things we love hold us back from growing. But the movie has a moral lesson to tell so this can’t be avoided.
Gretel and Hansel have the same tone as The Witch, but this Anya Taylor-Joy led horror film is better executed in terms of building up intrigue and storytelling to paint a coming-of-age tale in a desolate landscape.
Overall, Gretel and Hansel still have the makings of a cult film, even if it’s not scary. Gretel’s journey teaches young audiences to trust their instincts and how they use their gifts is what really matters.
Gretel and Hansel
Gretel and Hansel is an eerie, atmospheric, and visually striking tale about trusting in yourself to make it through the darkness.