Stylishly Challenging: Our Review of ‘Gretel And Hansel’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - February 03, 2020
Stylishly Challenging: Our Review of ‘Gretel And Hansel’

Adapting familiar material can come with some challenges…

While Gretel & Hansel certainly channels the inherently creepy nature of the story, it’s so incredibly stylized from a visual standpoint that you occasionally forget about the actual story behind it all.

A long time ago in a distant fairytale countryside, a young girl (Sophia Lillis) leads her little brother (Sammy Leakey) into a dark wood in desperate search of food and work, only to stumble upon a nexus of terrifying evil.

With a ‘Young Adult’ vibe that isn’t afraid to get a little creepy, Gretel & Hansel works because it actually finds a balance between crafting a surreally creepy visual tale that doesn’t have nearly as much gore as you feel like it would.

Make no mistake, this movie is DARK and that’s what director Oz Perkins brings to the table on this one as we get dropped into a very dank and depressing world where Gretel is staring down some very real and unsettling realities.  Perkins casts in all in an incredibly well designed pallor that really sets the tone of the entire narrative.  With fantastic production design and just stellar cinematography so much of this film is established in the visual look of the film which really sets a mood for it all going forward.

Sophia Lillis carries the film with exceptional ease as Gretel as she plays her as a young woman learning how the world truly works while trying to look out for her headstrong little brother Hansel.  It’s a knowing performance as she finds herself pulled between her perceived obligations and her burgeoning potential that gets woken by Holda; our witch in the story.  Alice Krige does a nice job of channelling a subtle yet truly insidious undertone to the entire proceedings as both of these actresses play off of each other.

This is ultimately a weird one because while Hansel & Gretel is dripping with style for days that you can’t help but get lost in, it’s also dragged down by a narrative that isn’t necessarily weak but gets a little too muddled and ambiguous at times losing focus on the story of this young woman looking to find herself in a cold and terrifying world.  Ultimately it all rises above thanks to some very solid performances from Krige and Lillis who can carry a film well beyond her years.  It’s oddly appropriate for a wild range of audience while feeling like it’s anything but and you won’t be able to resist this oddly enigmatic horror movie.

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David Voigt is a Toronto based writer with a problem and a passion for the moving image and all things cinema. Having moved from production to the critical side of the aisle for well over 10 years now at outlets like, Criticize This, Dork Shelf (Now That Shelf), to.Night Newspaper he’s been all across his city, the country and the continent in search of all the news and reviews that are fit to print from the world of cinema.
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