We all know the story of Hansel & Gretel. A boy and a girl venture into the woods, find a gingerbread house that's home to a witch, nearly get cooked by her, push her into the oven, and live happily ever after. That's the watered down Disney version. The original Grimm fairy tale is far darker, and that's what Oz Perkins was trying to capture with Gretel & Hansel. But he never got that far. This film is a mountain of wasted potential from a director who wanted to make The Witch, but lacks the trained eye of Robert Eggers. Instead, he made a dull, forgettable dark fairy tale.
The atmosphere is dark and bleak, with Gretel (Lillis) and her brother Hansel (Leakey) being forced out of their home by their psychotic mother who threatens to kill them. Along their journey, they find a house full of food and a kindly old woman (Krige) who offers to take them in. From there, we get bizarre dream sequences that point to what we all knew was going to happen. The old woman is a witch. Surprisingly, so is Gretel, and they have a brief battle of wills for Hansel's life. The beginning is promising and the ending is interesting, but everything in between is boring and pointless. Apart from Robin Coudert's impressive score, which I did want to shout out.
Gretel & Hansel is such a great concept that is wasted by filmmakers who thought they could be cerebral, but ended up just being confusing. In the right hands, this could be a truly creepy and memorable movie. But it fell off the radar almost immediately back in January, and I can see why. What a letdown.