Gretel & Hansel
Upon seeing the trailer for Orion Pictures new flick Gretel & Hansel, I knew I needed to see it in theaters. Anytime a childhood tale is given a dark, demented twist, I need to know about it - which is part of the reason that back in 2013 when Hansel & Gretel came out, I couldn't get my hands on it quick enough. This time around wasn't much different: I knew from the trailer it wasn't going to necessarily be a terrifying horror, but more so a dark telling of some classic German folklore, and it pretty much met my expectations exactly. Gretel & Hansel was written by Rob Hayes and directed by Oz Perkins and for taking a dark fantasy approach to the folklore, believe it or not, the film doesn't feel like it strays too far off from the actual story by the Brothers Grimm that was released 208 years ago! Throw in Sophia Lillis as Gretel and Sam Leakey (which is his acting debut!) as her younger brother Hansel, an evil witch and some truly sickening behavior, and you'll find yourself in for quite the ride with this dark, dreadful telling of one of the most popular folklore stories of all time. If you're a fan of films that set a dark tone and an unnerving feeling in the pit of your stomach (like me), Gretel & Hansel should absolutely be a part of your watch-list this month.
Keeping it brief and without giving away too much of what gives this film its twisted touch, the story to the movie is fairly straightforward: after their father passes away and their mother goes mad, she kicks her 16 year old daughter Gretel and her 8 year old brother Hansel out of the house and into the big, scary countryside world without any food or way to fend for themselves. Now taking on the role of his caretaker, Gretel leads her younger brother through the woods on a trek to new beginnings for them, except they are both starving and willing to work for a meal. They stumble upon The Hunter (played by Charles Babalola) - a total badass and genuinely nice dude - who gives them some food to eat and a chance to rest before telling them of a group of foresters who would be able to take the pair in and help them stay away from the dangers of the woods. But first, they have to actually make it through the woods. After their young bellies go empty as they trek through the countryside, they eventually come across a unique, black house in the middle of nowhere, and as they peek into the window, they can see a banquet fit for a king. It is here that they meet the woman behind their undoing: The Witch known as Holda (played by Alice Krige). What follows is a tale of witchcraft, sorcery, good intentions but pure evil. And it makes for an awesomely dreadful film (in a good way!).
If you're a fan of films set in this type of time period and location - such as the ones in The VVitch or Hagazussa - Gretel & Hansel will take you right back to those films within mere minutes of the movie opening up. It's arguably one of the best settings for horror films, and the setting alone helps set the tone and mood of the film before anything else even happens; it's powerful. And if that wasn't enough, Sophia Lillis absolutely steals the show with her performance as the mighty alpha Gretel, who totally takes charge of their messy situation and takes no bullshit - but not before being tempted with great power by Holda. I thought Lillis was totally awesome in It, but she really steps it up in Gretel & Hansel and the only way to really convey that is for you to see her in action for yourself. Leakey makes a great companion as Hansel, always offering the cutest of smiles at all the right times and being a true younger brother. Together, the two go on a pretty incredible journey of self discovery, dreams, and even battle. While it may not be jumpscare heavy or a giant mindfuck, Gretel & Hansel has tons to offer in terms of hitting your senses. It feels like more of an artsy folklore horror than anything - and it's a very rewarding, suspenseful, and even draining film. It feels very atmospheric and mystifying than anything, and if that's your cup of tea, this film is definitely for you. I can't recommend this one enough - I loved it! Check it out!