Gretel & Hansel: An Attractive Disappointment
Updated: Mar 10, 2020
A Fairy Tale Turned Bedtime Story
Gretel & Hansel is a movie directed by Oz Perkins, who made his directorial debut only five years ago with The Blackcoat’s Daughter. The movie runs for a short hour and 27 minutes, much to my shock. But I’ll touch on that later.
This movie is based on the original Brother’s Grimm fairy tale “Hansel and Gretel." As you can tell, the title has the names switched, showing how Gretel takes the lead in this 2020 horror/coming-of-age film. That’s not the only difference between the two, though. Many creative liberties were taken while creating the plot to Gretel & Hansel. But did these changes live up to my expectations?
No. No, they did not. To put it harshly, this movie was a snoozefest riddled with bad acting and a poor script.
I had such high expectations for this film. When I saw the trailer, it intrigued me. I knew the story of “Hansel and Gretel” and thought it would be great to use the book material as a movie.
Well, after nodding my head to sleep many times, I finished the film. Needless to say, my boyfriend and I were upset that we wasted money to see it. There were many things I didn’t like nor understand. I should’ve been warned when the rating was PG-13 and not R.
The main protagonist, Gretel, played Sophia Lillis, is the narrator throughout the film. This touch was kind of pretentious. I mean, it’s a horror movie, not a deep art film that needs explaining. The narration was monotone and didn’t seem like a creative choice. Gretel was very one-note the entire movie even when the scene asked for more emotion.
Gretel also seemed to speak in a modern American accent whereas the rest of the cast spoke with Old English. It stuck out like a sore thumb right at the beginning of the movie. Even Hansel did some sort of adequate accent that made him fit in.
The bad American accent plus the monotone narration...what else could go wrong with the script's delivery?
It was then I realized that the script was dreadful.
It’s hard to explain without giving chunks of dialogue, but it felt dislodged and choppy. At some points, the audience laughed when the scene wasn’t going for comedy.
The only thing that saved any acting in the movie was the witch, who was named Holda in the movie. I don’t think they ever said her name once...or maybe I was sleeping when that happened. Holda carried what she could of the movie on her back. Alice Krige is amazing at creating a chilling atmosphere which she shows in other works such as Silent Hill. The scary cult leader? That was her.
No wonder she did such a good job at this movie! Every moment she popped up on the screen, I felt excited. The eerie feeling she gave was addictive and you wanted to see more of her--but you couldn’t.
In some scenes, Holda reverts to the young version of herself, which also made no sense to me. Young Holda was covered in modern-day tattoos and a haircut that wasn’t even thought of back in those days. I felt like I was watching a girl from 2020 who wanted to dress up as a spooky witch for Halloween but still wanted to look cute.
The movie is halfway through before we even get a glimpse of Holda. Why not cut out the part where Hansel and Gretel trip on shrooms and create more scenes for Holda? I don’t see how tripping on mushrooms adds anything to the movie, unlike in Midsommar where many scenes rely on the cult’s use of hallucinogenics.
I want justice for Holda. We don’t even get to see her kill any children! That’s the basis of the story--she’s a witch that eats children. All we get is some poorly arranged guts that turn into food and Holda pulling hair from her throat. This is what I should’ve feared with the PG-13 rating.
This dimmed down rating also created more issues with the plot. Since there wasn’t any type of gore, I didn’t feel any resentment toward the witch. The audience should fear her and root for the siblings yet the whole time I was rooting for Holda.
But I did enjoy the changes made from the original fairy tale. In this movie, Gretel seems to have the same powers as Holda. Holda then encourages her to hone them and leave her brother to his demise. In an obvious choice, Gretel says no, kills Holda, and saves her brother.
But then she just...sends Hansel back home for no reason and stays in the forest as the new “good” witch. I liked the idea of a different ending, but the execution wasn’t great.
It would’ve been great to see Gretel give in to the temptation of Holda and eat Hansel. It sounds quite severe but it’s what this movie desperately needed.
Throughout the movie we see Holda with her fingers painted black, which is what happens to Gretel when she decides to be the new witch of the house. But I thought that it would be cool to see the black paint creep up her fingers as her magic got stronger. In the end, her fingers turn black for no other reason but “Oh, you killed the witch so now I guess you’re the witch.”
The scene where Gretel kills Holda is anticlimactic.
At this point in the movie, the ending was obvious and you wanted to get it over with. The witch is guiding Hansel into a cage above a fire and forces Gretel to sit and watch. Gretel then uses her powers to grab the witch’s staff as if she has the force and uses it to pin Holda against the wall. Holda then burns until she crumbles and loses her magic, meaning Hansel is saved.
And, to be frank, I wanted Hansel to die. I needed a twist!
Besides Holda, the only other redeeming qualities of this movie stemmed from its direction. There was a big emphasis on the triangle, which is a common symbol in witchcraft. The house that Holda stayed with was aesthetically pleasing as well, following the triangular pattern.
The movie used colors to its strengths, such as rich colors during their feasts and cool, dim colors in Holda’s basement.
The music that played during the movie was also interesting. It had electronic moments and strange frequencies to create an unsettling mood. Sadly, these were the only things that made this movie better than a one out of ten.
Overall, this movie was a bore. As lovely as it looked, the script, some of the acting, and the storyline were disjointed. The film felt three hours long and I couldn’t wait to leave. It’s a shame that such great subject material turned into a lackluster adaptation. I wouldn’t recommend this movie to anyone.
I give Gretel & Hansel a 2/10.