Gretel & Hansel (2020)
Directed by Oz Perkins
Starring Sophia Lillis, Samuel Leakey, Charles Babalola and Alice Krige
Over the past ten years, going to see a January horror film has been a tradition for film aficionados. Studios know this. They also know January’s a slow month, which is why they tend to shove shelved and unmarketable films into this slot. Every once in a while, this approach yields some gems like Split (IX) (2016) and, one of my personal favorites, Ben Wheatley’s Kill List (2011). But more often than not, it’s been a shit show of poorly conceived and even more poorly directed stinkers like One Missed Call (2008), The Bye Bye Man (2017), My Bloody Valentine (2009) and a load of other terrible titles. Would Gretel & Hansel be another January joke of a film? And not just by switching the names around in the title?
Oz Perkins, with the help of the amazing cinematography from Galo Olivares, creates a beautiful world. Not quite as historically accurate as Robert Eggers The Witch (2015) or The Lighthouse (2019), and not as surreal as Del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth (2006), but somewhere comfortably in between.
The actors do their job but don’t convey a period piece in their speech— which is good for those that disdain subtitles but bad for those of us that have a difficult time suspending disbelief. Remember Costner in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991)?
Having two young people as the primary actors helps move the story along, and the eighty-seven minutes is full of intrigue without many lulls.
This is a disturbing film with disturbing visuals but done in a way that is artistically sound and not chock-full with gore. I appreciate the intent, but it’s a film that won’t engage the average film-goer. For horror fans and those interested in an alternate take on a well known fairy tale, this is a must.
If Split and Kill List are Solid A’s, and the other ninety percent of January 2020 horror movies were F’s, then this 2020 retelling is a solid B-.