Gretel & Hansel, by Cameron J. Czaja

Before I saw Gretel & Hansel, I didn’t know anything about it. I hadn’t seen any trailer or any advertisements for this whatsoever. Usually I like going into a movie not knowing anything, but there were a couple of factors that made me very skeptical. One of them was the fact that Hollywood had already put out two horror films, The Grudge and The Turning, this year alone that (from what I heard) were pretty terrible and I was afraid that this horror flick will be just as bad. Was that the case here? As usual, let’s find out.

If you can tell already by the title, Gretel & Hansel is a retelling of the classic Brothers Grimm fairy tale Hansel and Greta. While the overall premise is basically the same, there were some changes that were made to differ from previous incarnations with one of them being the title. The reason the names are reversed in this film was to show that had Gretel (Sophia Lillis) had more of a leading role than her brother Hansel (Samuel Leakey), who happens to be much younger than his sister. Because of this, the film is told through Gretel’s perspective as she protects her brother from the harsh environment surrounding them and the Witch (Alice Krige), who at first seems innocent but will soon have sinister plans for the siblings.

Like I said earlier, other than the premise I had no idea what Gretel & Hansel was about, and I was prepared for the worst. Fortunately I had another lucky week as this horror flick was a unique surprise, and one that I enjoyed.

What made this retelling work here was how they handled the narrative of Gretel. If you’ve read my review of Charlie’s Angels, then you know that I’m not a big fan of forced feminism. They could’ve easily done that here, but the filmmaker’s chose to go the subtle route and make her a strong female character without the gimmick. Another part of the film that I appreciated was the overall look of the film. The setting for this is unknown but if I had to take a guess it would be set around the 1800s. Everything had an old, antique look to it and the environment itself had a creepy appearance to it that reminded me of another film called The VVitch. For those who haven’t seen The VVitch, it had a similar premise to this film but not something I would recommend to a lot of people. A great film when it comes to filmmaking, but as a Catholic there were some scenes that were a bit uncomfortable to watch. This film, however, was easier to digest and had a great message about always being there for your sibling.

Gretel & Hansel is nowhere near a flawless film as it does have pacing issues, but the unique look and the subtle sense of dread makes this another January film that I appreciated. There’ll probably be another horror flick that’ll be better than this later on this year, but for right now I’m glad I got the chance to watch this one.

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