“What do you get when you guzzle down sweets…?” Hansel & Gretel as a Horror Film.

Hi everyone, I hope you had a fantastic Easter and stuffed yourself silly with chocolate. Bad things seem to happen to children in fantasy stories who eat too much of the sweet stuff. Augustus Gloop in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Bruno in The Witches and of course, much earlier than that, Hansel and Gretel.

Not necessarily one of the most popular fairy tales from the Brothers Grimm but it is one of the darkest in my opinion. There are no romantic subplots like in Cinderella or Snow White, there are no kindly and caring parents or grandparents like in Little Red Riding Hood in fact in Hansel and Gretal the father is weak minded and spineless and their step mother is abusive and homicidal. The children are literally on their own. To top it off the protagonist of the story is an apparently “sweet” and bizarre old lady living in a house of sweets and gingerbread who turns out to be a cannibal! So what better fairy tale to use for a horror film?!

Hansel and Gretal (2009) is a Korean film which takes this tale and turns it into to what can only be described as a twisted, fantastical nightmare. After a car accident a lost and injured young man is aided by a young girl who takes him back to her seemingly perfect family in their perfect house in the woods. But the house holds bizarre and disturbing secrets and he soon realizes that the children are not what they seem and there is literally no way to escape. The film turns this classic tale on its head where the children are the main protagonists with an axe to grind against adults who think they are “bad children”.

Although I’d love to discuss it deeper I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t seen it as there are many unexpected twists in the story. But this film is incredibly visual and atmospheric. The children maintain an uneasy balance between cute and creepy throughout the film and the adults are suitably irresponsible and sadistic. The gingerbread house has been turned into a house of horrors with a never-ending labyrinth of an attic at the top and grounds with grotesque and unnaturally real statues of former “parents” who let them down. There is a strange mixture of fantasy and reality that is never fully explained which I found really refreshing. 

This film really sticks to the original fairy tale and, through horror, encapsulates the darkness of the story perfectly. All the themes are there from the original tale: the childrens disenchantment with adults, neglectful and even abusive parents (in this case carers), revenge, cannibalism, an oven large enough to fit a person and an abundance of cream cakes and sweets. So, all in all, a really fantastic retelling of Hansel and Gretel!

 

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