“Gretel and Hansel” is a strange PG-13 horror that may have wonderful performances, but also has a divisive story.
|Screenplay By||Rob Hayes|
|Date Released (Theatrical Release)||1/31/2020|
|Genre(s)||Fantasy, Horror, Mystery, Thriller|
|Duration||1 Hour, 27 Minutes|
|Honda (Younger)||Jessica De Gouw|
This content contains pertinent spoilers.
Plot Summary/ Review (Ending Spoilers on 2nd Page)
With being impoverished, their father gone, and mother driven mad due to hunger and mental struggle, Gretel and younger brother Hansel are forced to live out on their own. During this time, they deal with starvation and are forced to rely on the kindness of strangers. Which, for Gretel, who doesn’t believe any kindness is without a cost, is hard to accept from even the seemingly sincerest people. Making the discovery of an old woman in the woods, Honda, someone who is kind, hosts regular feasts and is encouraging to Gretel, someone so foreign it leaves Gretel on edge. At least until she finds some enjoyment in having a maternal figure unlike her own, though their cruelty ultimately might be just the same.
What we’ve come to appreciate when it comes to Sophia Lillis is that she is the type of actress, a young actress at that, who knows how to handle quiet moments. Also, that she is building a career that allows you to see her outside of the role of love interest and as her own person. One who might be someone’s daughter, friend, what have you, but whose existence doesn’t revolve around the existence of another.
That continues in “Gretel and Hansel” for in operating as Hansel’s older sister, there is this quiet strength in the responsibility of taking care of a child. On top of that, as the old woman, Honda, pokes and prods at her relationship with her brother, we can see the wheels turn in Lillis’ head as she is challenged with the idea of her brother possibly being a burden. Also, as Honda invests in Gretel, there is the ability to recognize Gretel’s joy and what it means for a teenager to feel like someone sees them and invests in them. Much less, unlike her mother, who’d have her assaulted for a place to stay, someone who chooses to empower you.
Lillis’ Chemistry With Her Co-Stars
And that is the main driving force which makes this film better than you’d think – Lillis’ chemistry with her co-stars. For the way Gretel and Hansel interact, it makes it so, whether an established property, like this, or one that took place in modern times, at its core Lillis and Samuel Leakey have something there. Making it so, while Hansel can often come off as the annoying little brother, you can see a love between the two that just as much raises blood pressure as it present a sense of calm.
Then, taking things further when it comes to Lillis and Alice Krige’s character, in watching their interactions, you can see a sort of awe. One which doesn’t so much deal with Gretel having her first period and her looking to Holda for guidance, but more so the idea that Holda is a woman who lives alone and isn’t suffering. There is representation there in terms of independence that Lillis conveys that makes it so, while Gretel isn’t trusting of Holda at first, as Lillis and Krige move around one another, you almost find yourself forgetting that Holda, in the classic tale, should be a villain rather than someone who could very well be misunderstood.
There Is A Certain Creep Factor You Can Get Behind
Thus causing a certain creep factor for while the food was always the allure in the tale, there was never this sense of love, admiration, mentorship, or anything like that. So with this film including that, it presents a creep factor and makes it so with each dream Gretel has and each morning she wakes up, you expect the shoe has finally dropped. That Hansel will be gone, Gretel may be chained, or that, similar to “Spirited Away,” or “Pan’s Labyrinth,” thanks to eating the food, they might be stuck in Honda’s presence forever.
But, I will say, Gretel’s dreams, which can be disconcerting, are probably the best parts of the film.
On The Fence
Specifically, due to the fact they liven up what often is a very dry film. One filled with Lillis talking to herself, lots of walking, Hansel complaining, and you wondering when this is going to end. For as much as you may enjoy the overall story of Gretel and Honda, and learning Honda’s past, even at about an hour and a half, this film feels like it drags out the essential storyline. Thus causing multiple phone/watch checks around the hour mark.
- Horror fans who prefer things to be a tad more psychological than blood, guts, and vulgarity.
- People who like remixed versions of classic tales.
- Those who like creepy stories starring children.
Would Watch Again? – One and Done
Rating: Mixed (Divisive)
What drives “Gretel and Hansel” is Lillis’ performance, and it further showcases her as the type of actress who could not only hold her own but can make an average, if not mediocre script, decent. But, with “Gretel and Hansel,” while Lillis’ skills are fully on display, and she has excellent co-stars, sadly, the story drags on too long and eventually, the film wears out its welcome. Also, while you have to appreciate the ideas which don’t go along with the version of the tale most people know, one would submit in going off the beaten track, that is what doomed this film. For with the obligation to end the film with the finish most know and expect, it seems there was a conflict between the desire to do something new while figuring a way to get to the classic ending.
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Gretel & Hansel Ending Spoilers
For days Gretel and Hansel spent time with Honda, and while Hansel would be outside, learning how to chop wood, Gretel was taught about herbs, magic and would explore Honda’s home. But, in time, with dreams of what is really going on, and discovering how a woman with no animals or fields made such grandeur feasts, Gretel realized it was time to go. But, with sending Hansel away, upset that he was going to ruin something which was the first good thing to happen to her in a while, she couldn’t immediately up and leave. So, instead, she bided her time and looked for her brother who ended up being in the basement.
A place where Honda’s oven was and with her power sourced in killing off her weakness, which is children, she has routinely killed children and used the guise of an old woman to lure them in. And when it comes to Gretel, she wanted her to follow in her footsteps and kill, alongside eat, her weakness – Hansel. But, with using the magic Honda taught her, Gretel kills Honda by having her catch on fire over her own oven then eventually breaking off her neck with the staff Honda would often use.
Leaving Gretel inheriting Honda’s home and sending Hansel off to live and work with the foresters.
Is A Sequel Possible?
There could. With Gretel becoming a full witch, at least a marked one thanks to the darkening of her fingers, she now inherits the story of what Honda has done, and while the spirit of the children are gone, the tale remains. Add in she decides to make Honda’s home her own and sends Hansel off to become the man she can’t raise him to be, it does open the doors for them becoming enemies in the future. Possibly due to him forgetting his sister, as he has their father, or maybe Honda’s legend causing Gretel to be seen as evil.
Which is all to say, if there was to be a sequel, we’d think it would be based on time passing and either Hansel’s daughter developing a relationship with Gretel, Hansel forgetting his sister and Honda’s legend leading to him hunting her for a reward, or some mix of the two.
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