Review by Camden Ferrell
January has been a rough month for horror movies. Both The Grudge and The Turning were critically panned and commercial flops. However, Gretel & Hansel surprisingly sets itself apart by being a well-made horror film. Even if it utilizes some familiar tropes, this visually gorgeous movie boasts an eerie atmosphere and daring execution that is refreshing to see.
This movie is a new take on the traditional fairy tale. In this movie, Gretel and Hansel, in search of food and help, stumble upon a beguiling woman and her cabin only to slowly be exposed to its true terror. It’s a familiar story, but the film injects enough originality and twists into its premise to give it a narrative edge to make it more engaging.
Rob Hayes’ script isn’t without flaw, but it does construct the story in an interesting way. It balances the movie with dream sequences, ambiguous moments, and scenes that are more artistically driven than one would expect. However, this film’s originality comes from the interesting direction of Oz Perkins. He executes scenes in a creative way that utilizes a lot of interesting cinematic techniques.
This film is led by a solid performance from Sophia Lillis (It). She is mostly reserved throughout the film, and she has a captivating screen presence which is fairly impressive for an actress her age. Even if the script isn’t the most engaging, she mostly makes her material work well. Alice Krige creepily plays the film’s antagonist. She is eerie and haunting as the sinister old woman in this story, and it’s an incarnation of this character that is engaging to watch.
By far and away, the most virtuous aspect of this movie is Galo Olivares’s cinematography. It utilizes a cool aspect ratio and pairs that way with some impressive and gorgeous framing. Its use of color is astounding, and it gives the film a visual style that sets itself apart from other genre films. Even though it’s unlikely, this is an extremely strong and early contender for best cinematography of the year.
Unfortunately, this movie does have its problems. It utilizes some clunky narration for some unnecessary context, and its first act pales in comparison significantly to the rest of the film. Some may be put off but its unconventional narrative, but I found it to be really engaging and creative. It has many familiar beats as other horror and fantasy entries, but it doesn’t bog down the movie too much.
What’s great about this movie is how daring it was. It foregoes a lot of the traditional horror and fantasy tropes, and it creates something that feels fairly unique. It shares a lot of traits with Robert Eggers’s The Witch, and it’s a welcome change from the typical horror film. Perkins creates a tense atmosphere with some creepy visuals, and he doesn’t rely on jump scares or any cheap thrills.
Gretel & Hansel is a film that deserved more than being dumped as a January release. It is a creative horror film that will be more accessible to viewers due to its PG-13 rating. Even if it may put off some viewers, it’s an ultimately satisfying and creepy movie experience.
Gretel & Hansel is in theaters now.