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Gretel & Hansel - Blu-ray Review

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Gretel & Hansel

Who wasn't frightened as a child by the horrifically grim childhood fairy tale about an evil witch who bakes pastries to lure children into her home so she can cook and eat the youngsters for dinner? It’s a wonder any of us made it out of childhood without totally losing all of our marbles. The classic fairy-tale Hansel & Gretel published by The Brothers Grimm back in 1812 has certainly been the stuff of nightmares for generations, so it’s only appropriate that the fable get the modern horror treatment for today’s generation of horror-loving ghouls and boils.

"a dark and moody little chiller that aims directly at the black heart of the German folk tale, and ultimately offers a lot for horror fans to admire"


 

And thankfully, it wasn’t Disney who, in their current mad dash to “live-action” everything, got their happy little hands on the idea. Instead, it’s refreshing to see the task go to The Blackcoat’s Daughter auteur Osgood (Oz) Perkins (son of Anthony Perkins) whose knack for arthouse mood and style seems perfectly suited for this black tale of horror. And save for a few stumbles and oversights, Perkins has created a dark and moody little chiller that aims directly at the black heart of the German folk tale, and ultimately offers a lot for horror fans to admire.

Perkins, working from a script by Rob Hayes, takes a few liberties with the tale by changing the age of the title characters. Rather than a pair of twelve-year-olds, Gretel (Sophia Lillis) is now around sixteen years old, while her brother Hansel (Samuel Leakey) is about eight. On the home front, poverty and famine have stricken the land, so it’s not long before they are soon driven from home by their distraught mother who is too poor to feed them. {googleads}

As the pair set out alone through the forest searching for work, a tight bond is formed between the two, with Hansel hoping to provide for the family – despite his young age, while Gretel simply tries to keep the two safe in a world where all adults appear to be the enemy.

On their perilous trek through unwelcome territory, the two endure a near-constant barrage of danger and menace, such as mysteriously cloaked figures that skitter about the forest branches. There’s also an out-of-place magic mushroom scene that results in hallucinations after the starving children eat some polka-dotted mushrooms they find along the forest floor.

It’s in this treacherous journey that we get our most promising glimpse of Perkins’ beautiful work behind the camera and begin to understand why the filmmaker is so perfect for this job. Though it all occasionally feels a bit tipped in the favor of style over substance, Perkins’ unique arthouse sensibilities and artistic verve are so strong and commanding, that his visuals themselves carry most of the storytelling weight. However, with long stretches of flat emotion and deliberate pacing, we’re happy to simply sit and marvel at the wonderfully rendered visuals.Gretel & Hansel

It’s not long before the brother and sister happen upon a witch’s home which they discover is filled with enough delicious food to feed everyone in the valley. With empty bellies and overflowing courage, the temptation is too much to resist as they are greeted by an elderly hostess (Alice Krige) who encourages them to come in and enjoy the delicious food. Krige, in all black – with fingers to match – turns in a chillingly brilliant performance as she chews up the scenery and spits out dialogue as the devil temptress who sees in Gretel somewhat of a kindred spirit. If you know the fairy tale story of Hansel & Gretel then you know what happens next. Hint: it ain’t pretty!

There’s a beautiful simplicity to Gretel & Hansel that is enhanced by a dearth of side characters and busy plot distractions. It is basically a three-person show that gets its drive and menace from a slow buildup of ominous mood and spooky atmosphere. The film’s themes of finding oneself and choosing our own fate are a nice second layer touch, but even at just under 90 minutes, it is probably about twenty minutes too long with an ending that has to work way too hard for its thrills and chills.

3/5 stars

Gretel & Hansel

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Home Video Distributor: Warner Bros.
Available on Blu-ray:
May 5, 2020
Screen Formats: 1.66: 1
Subtitles
: English SDH, Spanish
Audio: 
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1
Discs: Blu-ray disc single disc; digital copy
Region Encoding: A

Warner updates the age-old Grimm's fairy tale, Hansel & Gretel and brings it to sparkling blu-ray with a nice little blu-ray + Digital edition of Gretel & Hansel.

The blue eco-case comes packed in a matte-coated cardboard sleeve while the single blu-ray disc contains but a single bonus feature - a bit disappointing considering the loving care and attention paid to the feature itself. Despite its lack on bonus material, this release still comes as a strong recommend to own if for no other reason than to take in the beauty of Oz's film in stunning 1080p. Also included is a digital redemption coupon.

Video

Gretel & Hansel is a dark affair. Very dark, with the majority of the film taking place inside the candle-lit rooms of the witch's house or beneath the dark canopy of the Black Forest's giant trees. Certainly a true nightmare scenario with a high degree of difficulty for Warner's technicians tasked with bringing the film to blu-ray. Even so, there are very few visual flaws to be found anywhere with virtually no digital crush, banding, or wall crawl - even in the pitch black corners of the frame.

The sharpness and clarity throughout is absolutely phenomenal with all the textures and intricacies of the forest coming to life with an astonishing crispness, while the orange and yellow beams of sunlight pierce the darkness within the house, providing beautiful pops of color. The visuals here will blow you away.

Audio

There's not a lot going on from am auditory standpoint as the film is a mostly quiet affair with plenty of whispery dialogue. But the dialogue is always crisp and clear hitting the center channel pretty hard, while the forest scenes come to life and surround the room with the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. The star of the audio show is Robin Coudert's ominous score creeps eerily throughout the rooms. Oh, the menace and dread!

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • None

Special Features:

Not much here with but a single feature - a storybook animation that tells the film's story via a snappy little animation like the turning pages of a storybook.

  • Storybook - Featurette

Blu-ray Rating:

  Movie 3/5 stars
  Video  4/5 stars
  Audio 4/5 stars
  Extras 1/5 stars

Overall Blu-ray Experience

3/5 stars

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Gretel & Hansel

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for disturbing images/thematic content, and brief drug material.
Runtime:
87 mins
Director
: Osgood Perkins
Writer:
Rob Hayes
Cast:
Sophia Lillis, Alice Krige, Jessica De Gouw
Genre
: Horror
Tagline:
A grim fairy tale.
Memorable Movie Quote: "Tell me the fairy tale again."
Theatrical Distributor:
United Artists Releasing
Official Site: https://orionpictures.com/projects/gretel-hansel
Release Date:
January 31, 2020
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
No details available.
Synopsis: A long time ago in a distant fairy tale countryside, a young girl leads her little brother into a dark wood in desperate search of food and work, only to stumble upon a nexus of terrifying evil.

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Gretel & Hansel

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