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  Gretel and Hansel Fairy Tale Ending
Year: 2020
Director: Osgood Perkins
Stars: Sophia Lillis, Alice Krige, Samuel Leakey, Jessica De Gouw, Fiona O'Shaughnessy, Donncha Crowley, Jonathan Gunning, Charles Babalola, Giulia Doherty, Jonathan Delaney Tynan, Darlene Garr, Melody Carillo, Nessa Last, Harry O'Cualachain
Genre: HorrorBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Once upon a time there was a little girl who, when she was a baby, was on the verge of dying until her parents asked a witch to save her. This was successful, up to a point, for as the baby grew it became clear the witch's magic had altered her in some way, and she had mysterious powers that she was using for evil since her soul had been corrupted. She killed her blacksmith father by making him eat a red-hot poker and was about to wreak more havoc when she was banished from her home and the land into the forest, where the locals hoped they would never hear from her again. But she was able to muster her forces while she was out in the wilderness, and managed to take wayward and lost children to bolster her unearthly powers...

Director Osgood Perkins, son of film star Anthony Perkins as it's required to point out, had been ploughing his own furrow as a creator of impressionistic horror movies that were strong on atmosphere and visuals rather than plot, a combination guaranteed to rub a lot of people up the wrong way. However, if you were not so bound to horror movie conventions and cliches as they were, you would find plenty to admire in his work, not least the rich tones both in imagery and mood which delineated him as a talent who was well aware of what he wanted from his efforts and was content in the knowledge he was succeeding: what you saw on the screen was more or less what he wanted you to see, and you could take or leave that as you pleased.

If you took it in the case of Gretel and Hansel, you would find a fable created by men which ruminated on the power women have in connection with nature and the occult. Gretel (Sophia Lillis) is well aware she has some form of affinity with the arcane that goes beyond a love of nature, and that she must use this to save her little brother Hansel (Samuel Leakey) after they both have to escape their unbalanced mother. They do this by running into the woods, travelling deeper and deeper until they are only dimly aware of where they are; in the Brothers Grimm telling of this one, they left a trail of breadcrumbs to work out where they had been, but no such detail existed in this, as Perkins was focused on getting the pair to the gingerbread house. Again, that was not as it was in the source.

Given that the tale of Hansel and Gretel is many thousands of years old, some artistic licence in the relating of it was permissible since it was not a story that had remained the same throughout that time (the Grimms famously toned down their books because they knew children loved reading them). Thus an exploration of the spirit of the female was the matter in hand here, as the witch in the house (Alice Krige) initially welcomes the children in for shelter and all that food, but seems to have a hidden agenda that is not so hidden to us, for we were in the privileged position of being aware of the traditions this was not quite adhering to, but nevertheless was toying with. Far from a slam bang, jump scare horror, this was more about crafting immersive appearances and unnerving Gretel about her potential, obviously a Company of Wolves-style adolescence metaphor, but also with the mysticism of The Holy Mountain in there too, a strange combination that was a bit of a stretch, yet overall pretty satisfying. It was nicely played throughout, kind of inscrutable, and a picture to take in with contemplation. Music by Robin Coudert, as accomplished as the rest.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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