There have been many adaptations of the Hansel & Gretel tale from The Brothers Grimm. Some of these adaptations have been slightly twisted tales targeted towards children, and one even had them grown up and hunting witches. In Gretel & Hansel, director Oz Perkins (The Blackcoat’s Daughter) takes the classic tale and really delves into the darkness to create a pretty effective horror movie. While the movie may bore those who want their horror movies to be unrelenting and gory, those who appreciate the subtle creepiness of a movie like The VVitch should find something to like here.
Gretel & Hansel tips its hand to the structure of the movie with its character flip in the title. In this adaptation, Gretel (Sophia Lillis, It: Chapter 1 & 2) is a teenager who spends much of her life looking after her younger brother, Hansel (Sam Leakey), in their poverty-stricken village. After failing to secure a job with a man who is clearly a sexual predator, Gretel and her brother are banished from their house by their mother who says the house it too small for them. As the siblings journey to find a safe place to stay, the movie makes allusions to other fairytales in a bit of interesting world building that should have been a bit more fleshed out.
After surviving all manner of terrors in the woods, they come across a strange house emanating alluring food smells in the middle of the woods. This house is inhabited by creepy older lady named Holda (Alice Krige), a witch who invites them in for food and shelter in exchange for work around the house. As Hansel obliviously falls under the spell of the witch with the never-ending food, Gretel is haunted by the notion that all is not as it appears to be. It is up to Gretel to resist the temptation that she is faced with and protect herself and her brother from the evil forces at work. In an interesting bit of commentary on gender norms, Gretel has to wrestle with the idea that she may not be reaching her full potential due to her responsibilities in the role of stand-in mother. The culmination of these ideas result in a sequence that is visually striking, if not slightly underwhelming narratively.
Gretel & Hansel is a very thin concept that is leisurely paced and slightly overlong even as it falls below a ninety-minute runtime. The movie does an excellent job of maintaining a supremely creepy atmosphere with a fair amount of help from the moody, synth-based score from Robin Coudert and some of the best production design present in a horror movie in quite some time. This coupled with the really striking cinematography elevates this to something truly beautiful to behold. The acting from the siblings tends to be a bit flat, especially the young Hansel, but Alice Krige imbues the witch with a creepiness that is truly the stuff of nightmares. Overall, the movie has a lot of interesting facets going for it, but this is definitely more for an arthouse horror crowd than any mainstream audience.
Gretel & Hansel makes it’s way to Blu-Ray with a gorgeous looking 1080p transfer in an oddly framed 1.55:1 aspect ratio for the majority of the movie. The striking visuals presented in the film are represented here with a crystal clear transfer free of any digital anomalies or damage. The film itself presents with golden hues indoors and more of a blue tint when out in nature. The film takes place for the most part in shadows and darkness, but the black levels are very deep on this disc and provide a good amount of clarity and detail to the frame. The flashes of color that occur sporadically throughout the film such as the red smoke coming from the house look fantastic. This is a really nice looking transfer that only could have looked better with a 4K release.
The film comes with a DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track that does not get a huge workout, but provides a pleasing experience. The film is a mixture of quiet dialogue with long bouts of silence as visuals tell the story. Dialogue is rendered appropriately clear and is never overshadowed by the score. There is some nice activity in the surround speakers when the score drifts around and envelopes the room, along with the creepy whispers that pop up. This is a reserved track by the nature of the movie, but it does everything it needs to do effectively.
- Storybook: A five minute illustrated storybook version of the movie is presented here with text on screen and music from the film. The pages mostly keep a good pace to get all of the information, but some turn ridiculously fast so you may have to rewind or pause to get everything.
Gretel & Hansel is an indie horror movie reaching a mainstream audience, which can often result in a backlash. The movie itself is an interesting little horror film with beautiful visuals and a pace that is a bit too leisurely paced. Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provides the movie with a great A/V presentation, but a few more extras would have been welcome. It is a film that is definitely worth checking out for the strong directorial choices and creepy atmosphere. Recommended
Gretel & Hansel is currently available to purchase on Blu-Ray, DVD and Digital.
Note: Images presented in this review are not reflective of the image quality of the Blu-Ray.
Disclaimer: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has supplied a copy of this disc free of charge for review purposes. All opinions in this review are the honest reactions of the author.