While a well-known Brothers Grimm tale, the story of “Hansel and Gretel” hadn’t truly had its own fully developed feature film for a long time. Except for 2013’s ill-received Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, which saw Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton as adult versions of the titular characters, it wasn’t until 2020 that director Oz Perkins would attempt to give us a genuinely creepy horror film from the source material.
Gretel & Hansel stays true to the tale for the most part, following the two siblings (Sophia Lillis and Sam Leakey) as they enter the dense woods, coming across the secluded home of an evil witch with sinister dinner plans. On the surface, the film has great pieces that work well together, though it’s a bit disappointing in the end.
The overall look of the film is its strongest aspect. From the trailer, I knew I’d love the aesthetic and cinematography, and it has no shortage of beautiful and disturbing shots, with near-perfect composition. Perkins delivers this well in all of his films, so they’re always a treat in some way.
I was particularly a fan of the design of the witch’s cottage. It’s unique in that it trades in what you’d expect for something that looks disconnected from the time period. It does a great job of feeling like a modernized version of the tale, while still maintaining its 12th-century setting. Even the witch herself is genuinely creepy, and Alice Krige does a fantastic job giving an unsettling performance.
Despite some fantastic visuals, the story lacks the power needed. The biggest issue is the pacing, which drags and fails to maintain the suspense. Hyper-stylized shots, while fun for the eyes, isn’t doing enough to keep viewers engaged and invested in the story. It’s honestly rather boring. Which is a real shame.
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