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Gretel and Hansel: An Actual Scare?‎

Featured image via, courtesy of © ORION Pictures


While it’s easy to spice up a story with a scary context, to actually make it scary is a whole different job. Did Gretel and Hansel terrify the audience?

The film follows 16-year-old Gretel (Sophia Lillis) and 8-year-old Hansel (Sammy Leaky) after they have been thrown out of their house and left to fend for themselves in a dark, scary forest. On their journey, and in a fit of hunger, they stumble into the food-filled house of Holda (Jessica De Gouw), who welcomes them in to eat and stay the night. After one night turns into two, and two turns into more, Gretel starts to realise that there may be more to Holda than she thought, and perhaps even more of her self than she ever thought possible.

So the traditional fairytale is switched up here with Gretel being the wise older sister who is responsible for taking care of her younger helpless brother. The feature has a lot of focus on Gretel’s special gifts and how she handles them.

Despite these changes, the film still feels quite hollow; the plot has so many loose ends, like the most glaring question of why Gretel didn’t just take Hansel and leave when she was having horrible daily nightmares about Holda and her house? The film does not address that, but, instead, stalls for a couple of days of supposedly scary events with barely any reaction from Gretel. Also, the backstory that the feature starts with, and relies on, is shaky and could have been so much creepier and much more intriguing. Parts of the film also do not make any sense, and just places them as givens that audiences should accept without asking any questions – such as the part about eating your poison, which it takes quite literally.

Aesthetically, the film, as a picture, is nice to watch, yet the creepy mood is hindered rather than helped by the graphic and violent scenes that make it seem more gorily cartoonish than scary. The scare factor of the film is quite low, with one or two boring jump scares.

For the acting, Sophia Lillis’s performance was strong and confident, but could have been more expressive when it came to her emotions, especially the part where she reacts to her gifts. Sammy Leaky played his role perfectly, and was completely plausible as a strong-headed but helpless 8-year-old boy. Jessica De Gouw was incredibly creepy, and if it weren’t for the hollow plot and muddled lines, her performance would have been outstanding.

Gretel and Hansel isn’t impressive when you take into consideration its source material, and even the good ideas it had were wasted.


Like This? Try

The Brothers Grimm (2005), and Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (2013)

360 Tip

At one point a song floats over the soundtrack: "My mother, she killed me, my father, he ate me, what a pretty bird am I!" This comes from another Grimm fairy tale, "The Juniper Tree," which this film borrows some thematic elements from.

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