Quantcast
Channel: Good Efficient Butchery
Viewing all articles
Browse latest Browse all 1212

In Theaters: GRETEL & HANSEL (2020)

0
0

GRETEL & HANSEL
(Canada/US - 2020)

Directed by Osgood Perkins. Written by Rob Hayes. Cast: Sophia Lillis, Alice Krige, Samuel J. Leakey, Jessica De Gouw, Charles Babalola, Beatrix Perkins. (PG-13, 87 mins)

With a comfortable enough distance from the movie industry's inexplicable fixation on all things Hansel & Gretel back in 2013 (the big-budget bomb HANSEL & GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS, the Asylum knockoff HANSEL & GRETEL, and the stoner-themed HANSEL & GRETEL GET BAKED, the Brothers Grimm fairy tale has returned to the big screen in GRETEL & HANSEL, a revisionist take from director Osgood Perkins. The son of PSYCHO star Anthony Perkins and photographer Berry Berenson, the LEGALLY BLONDE actor-turned-filmmaker specializes in the slowest of slow-burn horror, and over the course of his two previous films--the 2016 Netflix original I AM THE PRETTY THING THAT LIVES IN THE HOUSE and 2017's THE BLACKCOAT'S DAUGHTER--he's carved his own niche in the genre, much like HEREDITARY and MIDSOMMAR director Ari Aster. But that comes with a caveat: the term "slow-burn" really doesn't appropriately convey just how glacially-paced an Osgood Perkins film can be. PRETTY THING's biggest coup was Perkins coaxing longtime family friend Paula Prentiss out of retirement, but the film is almost too slow for its own good, with shots so static and quiet that, at times, it comes off like a series of still-life portraits with intermittent narration. It's almost as slow and almost as quiet, but THE BLACKCOAT'S DAUGHTER, on the other hand, is a profoundly unnerving experience that, to quote myself, "will fuck you up for days after seeing it," and is one of the very few horror movies of recent years that I found legitimately scary and disturbing. But while PRETTY THING is technically Perkins' chronological "debut" as a director, BLACKCOAT was actually made first (under the title FEBRUARY), with A24 leaving it on the shelf for a couple of years while they figured out how to market it. Oddly, it's BLACKCOAT that plays more like the work of an assured filmmaker who's gained some confidence in what he's trying to accomplish, while PRETTY THING feels like more of a stunt that borders on the experimental.






Though he didn't write GRETEL & HANSEL (the script is by British screenwriter Rob Hayes), it's very much in Perkins' wheelhouse with its focus on a female protagonist and its extremely deliberate pacing that emphasizes atmosphere and mood over in-your-face scares. The switching of the name placement in the title is the obvious giveaway that this is going to be a significantly different interpretation of the Brothers Grimm, and in it, we get 16-year-old Gretel (Sophia Lillis of IT and HBO's SHARP OBJECTS) forced to take care of her tag-along younger brother, eight-year-old Hansel (Samuel J. Leakey). Plague and pestilence have ravaged the land, their father has disappeared, and their desperate, distraught mother is losing her mind. Independent-minded Gretel has trouble accepting things that are expected of her as a young woman--she refuses her mother's demand to join a convent, and her attempt to find employment at the manor of a leering, drunkard nobleman quickly goes south when the first question in the extremely uncomfortable job interview is if her "maidenhood is still intact." Starving and with no hope, their mother sends them off on their own, but not before imploring Gretel to dig a grave for her. They're briefly tutored in the ways of survival by a stern but sympathetic huntsman (Charles Babalola), and soon happen upon a lonely house deep in the foreboding forest, with a glance through a window revealing a seemingly boundless feast waiting inside. Also inside is the mysterious Hilda (great to see Alice Krige once again getting a showy role that's up there with her work in 1981's GHOST STORY and as the Borg Queen in 1996's STAR TREK: FIRST CONTACT), who possesses supernatural abilities and sees a kindred spirit in Gretel.





Lillis' IT notoriety is probably the main reason GRETEL & HANSEL is getting a nationwide rollout in a move that might cause you to incorrectly assume it's another multiplex audience-alienating A24 release rather than one from the reactivated Orion, now a niche division of MGM under the United Artists banner. Yes, the jump-scare horror crowd and IT superfans are probably gonna hate this (and yes, I'm linking film critic Jason Coffman's essential 2016 "gatekeepers" piece once again, because it still holds true), but those going into it possessing a familiarity with Perkins' work will find it to be ambitious, highly symbolic, metaphorically rich, and visually intoxicating. Working with cinematographer Galo Olivares (a camera operator on Alfonso Cuaron's ROMA) and production designer Jeremy Reed (a collaborator on I AM THE PRETTY THING THAT LIVES IN THE HOUSE), Perkins creates a world of folk horror that's hypnotic on an almost Panos Cosmatos level throughout. The Kubrickian shot compositions in the rarely-utilized 1.55:1 aspect ratio (after a prologue in 2.35), the emphasis on triangular shapes, disorienting camera angles, eerie glimpses of robed figures in the fog, giallo-inspired colorgasms, recurring Perkins motifs like mirrors and insidiously subtle rumblings in the sound mix, and the synth-driven electronic score by "Rob" (French composer Robin Caudert, who worked on the MANIAC remake and REVENGE) that invokes the sounds of Goblin, Tangerine Dream, John Carpenter, and Sinoia Caves, all combine to make GRETEL & HANSEL an often vividly surreal experience. Granted, it's one that will try the patience of viewers whose tastes lean more toward the mainstream but will certainly appeal to those who have logged significant time off the beaten path with eccentric genre outliers. And while it might not fall under the parameters of a modern-era "jump scare," Hilda's first appearance is a near pants-shitter.





The Panos Cosmatos comparison is an important one, and even beyond the sequence where Gretel and Hansel eat some special mushrooms, there are several bits here that recall that sort-of trippy, otherworldly, almost out-of-body feel of BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW and MANDY, with some imagery looking like it could've conjured from the lyrics of a black metal concept album by Jethro Tull. And with a setting that's more than slightly reminiscent of Robert Eggers' THE WITCH, it's debatable that the obvious influences here might work to Perkins' slight detriment (I'm also willing to bet he's an EYES OF FIRE fan). Sometimes, the film feels like his auteurist designs are being filtered through some movies he's seen and liked over the last few years. And the abrupt third act--which manages to make the film seem both too long and too short at the same time--has the faint whiff of compromise to it, like somebody at MGM told the minimalist filmmaker "You need some special effects here." Mind you, these are, at most, very minor gripes. There's been some chatter that this is a "woke" take on the Brothers Grimm, but that's a tired buzzword that does the film a disservice. It has a decidedly feminist point of view, and Lillis does a great job of conveying Gretel's fury with all of the bullshit women have had to deal with forever, like the sexual harassment by the creepy, lip-smacking nobleman, or being told she should "smile more," offering biting social commentary in the guise of a surreal and unsettling period horror tale. You'll either connect with GRETEL & HANSEL or you won't--as with PRETTY THING and BLACKCOAT'S DAUGHTER, there's no middle ground. But if you've been intrigued by Perkins' work thus far, this is one that you really should see on a big screen. And you should probably do so sooner rather than later because it's not gonna be there very long.


Viewing all articles
Browse latest Browse all 1212

Latest Images

Trending Articles





Latest Images