Into the woods with Gretel and Hansel


Patrick Redmond

Photo from Orion Pictures

Sophia Lilis returns to the big screen in yet another horror movie, trading Pennywise the dancing clown for an evil witch in “Gretel and Hansel.” This adaptation of the Brothers Grimm story remains fairly true to the original, while providing stunning visuals and adapted character origins that cater to younger audiences. The movie was released worldwide on Jan. 31.

Even though I expected the movie to lean toward the horror genre, the scariest thing about the movie was the atmosphere and the music. I loved the dim, dreamy environment that director Oz Perkins created. The environment fully immersed me in the dark vibe of the original fairytale, but the film needed more than spooky aesthetics to scare me.  

An ongoing topic in the film was a woman and child’s place in the world. After their mother abandons the siblings, the two struggle finding work due to Hansel’s young age and Gretel’s gender. A child and woman’s worth is still relevant now, which made the movie have a more modern feel. Throughout the movie, Gretel (Sophia Lilis) deals with not knowing her place in the world because of her lack of age, gender, and lack of affluence. While dealing with her inner demons, she also has to raise her younger brother, Hansel (Sammy Leakey). 

Even though the film is supposed to portray both of the siblings’ struggles, Gretel is the focal point of the movie, and casting Lilis for this role was probably the best thing about the film. Lilis has mainly starred in thrillers such as the “It” movies and “Sharp Objects.” She always portrays her characters with maturity while keeping realistic characteristics most teenagers can relate to. Usually, young actors are drowned out by the older, more experienced actors, but 17-year-old Lilis’ emotions shine through in every scene and scream “leading lady.”

An aspect that differs from the original story is the elaboration of the characters’ personalities and backstories. In the original story, the children didn’t have much personality, and the witch’s origin isn’t mentioned at all. Gretel and Hansel are both strong-willed and willing to fight to survive, not just helpless and whiney like in the original adaptation. In the film, the witch’s origin causes her to find similarities in herself and Gretel, which allows Gretel to find literal and metaphorical power within herself that adds to her independent personality, and her character development is interesting to see.

Many recent “horror” movies aren’t truly scary. Most are now more plot-driven and focus on character development, which isn’t a bad thing, but causes movies like “Gretel and Hansel” to have slow pacing and a few unnecessary scenes. “Gretel and Hansel” will not keep you up all night, but the brilliant visuals and character development will keep you entertained regardless.