The Reel Review
The names in this spin on the classic fairy tale cleverly are flipped as it is told from the perspective of a cautious Gretel (Sophia Lillis), who at 16, tries to protect her clueless eight-year-old brother after their impoverished, mentally ill mother casts them out into the forest to fend for themselves. When they stumble upon the home of a kind but creepy witch, a hungry Hansel (Samuel Leakey) is eager to partake in the feast. Gretel, however, is suspicious.
Co-writer/director Oz Perkins (The Blackcoat’s Daughter) pulls out some impressive visual effects and a spine-tingling setting and score to build a palpable sense of dread in this symbolism-laden, coming of age take on the iconic story. Lillis (It, Sharp Objects) does a superb job carrying the film, with Alice Krige (Thor: The Dark World, Silent Hill) wonderfully terrifying as the creepy-fingered witch. Wash those hands!
The story, however, is a very slow burn, shoving aside the more expected, old fashioned horror, in favor of a more artsy tale loaded with trippy dream sequences and disturbing imagery, as Gretel wrestles with her dilemma over her own survival (i.e. personal growth) being impeded by the very thing she holds dearest to her heart, her young brother. Viewers looking for all the scares promised in the trailer will be disappointed, but for those who can appreciate the film’s symbolism, it is a pretty well done and insightful film worth checking out.
• Gretel & Hansel is the big screen debut for Samuel Leakey.
• Oz Perkins is the son of actor Anthony Perkins (Psycho) who died in 1992, and actress/photographer Berry Berenson, who was onboard one of the two terrorist-hijacked passenger jets which slammed into the World Trade Center on 9-11-01.
• Gretel & Hansel was filmed in Dublin, Ireland and Langley, British Columbia, Canada.