Hello, children. There is going to be an abundance of spoilers below so if you have not seen the movie yet, you have been warned..
First of all…ugh. I’m going to get into the story but this movie almost put my ass to sleep like I was Aurora in Sleeping Beauty. I love the Grimm fairy tales and I had high hopes for this but the story was just very flat.
Just to recap the original, Hansel and Grettel is a German fairy tale written by the Brother’s Grimm and was published in 1812. As (I would hope) most of us know, these stories were pretty dark and twisted. The two kids come from a poor family. They live with their dad, who is a kind-hearted woodcutter and their cruel stepmother. Plagued with famine, the stepmother convinces her husband to dumb his children in the woods to avoid starving to death, despite his contention. Hansel overhears their conversation and lays white pebbles as a trail to lead him and his sister back home. After his father lights a fire and abandons them, the kids find their way home and their father is overjoyed. The stepmother gets pissed that they had eaten their limited rations. That night, she locks them in their room to prevent them from leaving behind another trail and foiling her plan again. Instead of using rocks to find their way back, Hansel leaves behind breadcrumbs but they come to realize that they were devoured by birds. Eventually they find the witch’s house and are enticed by the smell of cakes and food. After trapping them, the evil witch forces the kids to do chores, overfeeds them and is outsmarted by Gretel before she tries to cook them. After defeating the witch, the kids find a vase full of treasure, find their way home with the help of a duck and live happily ever with their father. (Oh, and the evil stepmother is dead)
Gretel and Hansel is directed by Oz Perkins. It stars Sophia Lillis as Gretel (also played Beverly Marsh in It), Alice Krige as The Witch/Holda and Sam Leakey as Hansel. The movie runs about an hour and a half long. The story opens with Gretel narrating a fairy tale about a beautiful baby girl who suffers from a terrible illness. Desperate, her father brings her to an enchantress to heal her despite not considering the consequences of her “gifts”, Eventually, the girl grows up with an innate darkness and second sight. She becomes evil, murders her father and lives in isolation in the woods. The moral of the story (and the movie) is to “beware of gifts” and “nothing is given without something else being taken away”.
Gretel brings Hansel along to a place where she is trying to land a job as a housemaid. Apparently she is great with laundering and cleaning. The creepy dude interviewing her asks if her body is still ‘intact’ and she angrily leaves in disappointment. Her stepmother, who is clearly not mentally there, scolds her for not having the decency to try to smile or put more effort in trying to get the job. She angrily slams an ax on the table and shuns them out of their home. Their father is dead and cannot afford them living with her any longer.
The kiddos venture out into the woods alone and hungry. They find shelter in random home much like the style of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. There’s a random monster thing hiding next to their bed and they’re saved by The Hunter. He provides temporary shelter and guides them on a path to a place where they can earn their keep. In their journey, Gretel and Hansel are desperate for food and decide to accidentally eat magic mushrooms. We get to see the two trippin’ out in the woods for a bit. Like, okay I guess. Gretel frequently sees witch(es) hiding behind trees and decides to just ignore them because that’s what she was told to do. Just like the original story, they find the witch’s house (unfortunately not made of cookies and bread) and are tempted by the smell of food and the slide to play on. Holda, the witch, at first comes off as kind and provides shelter while assigning chores and overfeeding Hansel. The twist here is that Holda sees Gretel’s witch potential and mentors her on how to harness her abilities. Gretel also possesses a second sight and frequently sees the spirits of the children taken by Holda and realizes something is amiss, like the over-abundance of food and Holda never having to leave to fetch more supplies. At first, Gretel tries to convince Hansel to leave but he doesn’t want to abandon the comfort and safety he believes Holda is providing. Toward the climax, Hansel tries to convince Gretel to leave and reminds her again that ‘gifts don’t come without a price’.
Now, I respect the director’s new idea to spice up the original story. Instead of focusing on the witch, this centered primarily on Gretel’s coming of age and following her own path. She uses her newly attained knowledge and telekinesis to defeat the witch with her own staff and sends her brother off to his own journey with bags of jewels. The movie left on an interesting open note. Gretel is in a predicament where she clearly wants to use her powers for good, as she had freed the souls of the children the witch had taken. Her fingers turn black and foreshadow the possibility that she is the chosen one and she could turn into the next evil witch just like her counterparts.
I wish there was more of an emotional connection between the siblings on screen. It felt like there wasn’t much of a spark there, which is kind of important for siblings protecting each other from a dire situation. I mean, you go an 8 year old running around with an ax by himself in the woods and his sister is nowhere to be found or even seemed to be the least bit concerned. I guess my biggest disappointment with this adaption was that the trailers made this out to be a lot more sinister and horror based than what we actually got. In MY honest opinion, there was a lot of missed, unused potential. A lot of the witch’s backstory was a little messy and didn’t seem to make sense with what was going on. With the slow pace of the film, the ending just seemed a little rushed. I humbly give this a 6/10 monster rating. It was faithful to a lot the original Grimm’s story and the color and surroundings were beautiful. It just felt like a lot of the magic was missing.