Gretel & Hansel is a 2020 horror adaptation of the classic Grimm Fairytale, with a darker tone and setting made for the modern age. A horror movie’s biggest sin is being boring and Gretel & Hansel‘s cardinal sin is just that: it’s boring.
The story is what you’d expect, a needlessly dark take on a classic Grimm Fairytale — think Snow White & The Huntsman in terms of execution. We know how the story is going to play out, but I really wish more was done with the property to make it scarier, or at the very least more interesting. There are some really cool concepts that are hinted at at various points throughout the film. The mythology of their world, the history of the witch — these are briefly touched upon and then quickly dropped. Parts of me wished that the film focused more time on those elements, because they really are quite fascinating.
One aspect that caught me off-guard was the acting. The child actors are actually really good. Sophia Lillis is amazing as Gretel and the child actor playing Hansel (Samuel Leakey) is just as good. As a matter 0f fact, most of — if not all — the performances here were quite good. Judging in terms of January horror movie releases, the performances were the second best part of the film. The single best part has to be credited to the cinematographer — Galo Olivares. Seriously, this man’s shot compositions and use of lighting is just so astonishingly well executed. In terms of setting the mood and atmosphere for the film, this man gets it done right.
Unfortunately, that’s where most of the good ends for this movie. Everything else presented is simply too dull, and that’s why I believe many critics and audience members are giving this movie such a hard time. In the age of slow burn horror movies and horror movies starring kids, you’d think that more time and effort would be put into making a solid and well made horror flick. And, while it certainly looks well made, the overall feel of this film says otherwise.
Every aspect of Gretel and Hansel- with the exception of the cinematography and acting- feels like it was half-assed. Like I said before, the story doesn’t put enough focus on the elements that were legitimately scary and instead puts its focus on things we already know about Gretel and Hansel. And while I could scream the cinematography’s praise from a mountain top, I found myself squinting at the screen sometimes. The lighting made it hard to see parts of the sets, so at points it looked and felt cheap. The music is also pretty standard, like something you would come to expect from a horror movie. It’s not bad, but I found that it didn’t do its job well. And then there are the scares. A few scares are okay in terms of execution and the tension building near the beginning was actually nerve-wracking. But, as the film progressed, I kept wondering when something else was going to happen. And that nerve-wracking tension that was so prevalent towards the beginning just fades away.
Going back to the slow burn aspects of Gretel and Hansel, it really does feel like a slow burn in all the worst ways possible. The payoffs for each scare and mystery don’t work. I felt cheated each and every single time. Gretel & Hansel needed a few good jumpscares sprinkled throughout because at least then, I would not have been bored. The payoffs are disappointing for a movie that had the potential to be truly terrifying. Remember those trailers? Remember how good this movie looked? Well, it seems that’s all this movie was: good looking with a lack of substance.
The movie is boring, and if it were in any other genre that may have been forgivable. But this is a horror movie, and if your horror movie is boring then what’s the point in us caring?
Verdict: 2.5 out of 5 Stars
Gretel & Hansel needed more to be that horror movie we saw in those trailers. It needed more focus, more scares, and definitely needed a better score. I walked away from this movie feeling only disappointment, because it had the groundwork to be something spectacularly horrifying. Maybe someday, some filmmaker will see this and get an idea to make that spine tingling horror/thriller starring Hansel and Gretel that is actually so frightening we’d have to watch it through our fingers. Someday, but not today.