Cinematic Releases: A Feast of Flesh - Gretel & Hansel (2020) - Reviewed

Director Osgood Perkins returns to his chosen genre with a new telling of the classic tale of Hansel & Gretel. Based on the 1812 story by The Brothers Grimm, Perkins uses his flair for creating eerie settings with his very own spin on the story. The resulting feature is one that's mildly underdeveloped in some spots but has an overarching presence of doom and gloom. 

When two weary siblings are forced from their home, they wander into the woods where they encounter a darkened embodiment of evil that's only true purpose is to feast on the flesh and innocent souls of lost children. Told from a rather fresh perspective that delights in the current trend of folk horror, Perkins delivers a buffet for our senses that blends the cinematic elements of Beyond The Black Rainbow with the rustic vibe of The Witch, but also crosses paths with an aesthetic that seems truly ripped from the '70s. While it's definitely not going to be one for everybody, Perkins takes great strides to absolve himself of the typical winter dumping ground fare with a theatrical spectacle that must be seen by fans of methodical evil on film. 

Over the course of the past few years, Perkins (the son of the iconic Anthony Perkins), has truly carved out a niche for himself. Always wandering on the outskirts of horror, he seems to revel in the slow burn, never giving his audience too much at once. His retelling is a perfect example of how you can take a well known tale and add to it by giving it a more fleshed out back story that doesn't feel contrived or forced. Instead, he gives us insight into the blackness of witchcraft as well as a look at the close knit bond between brother and sister. When faced with sheer danger, how do they react? Do you fight through it or become the very unpleasant thing you hate?

osgood perkins

Perkins began developing his skillset with the indie films, I Am The Pretty Thing That Lives in the House (2016) and The Blackcoat's Daughter (2015). Now, helping out Orion Pictures with their branded relaunch that began in 2017, Gretel & Hansel is a neat offering that could see them sway into more this sub-category of film. Gretel & Hansel fits perfectly into this new subset of films that are pushing horror in new directions. Using a story that we all know so well and putting his own touches on it works like a charm under the control of a director that really knows how to blanket 87 minutes in sinister underpinnings. 

Featuring Sophia Lillis (IT) as our central character, Gretel and Samuel Leakey as a much younger Hansel, both truly fill the platter with great performances. But, Alice Krige, long known for taking the cake as wicked on-screen women, steals the spotlight as Holda, the forest dwelling feaster of flesh. Inhabiting roles in a film like this has got to be a challenge considering how well known the source material is. With a tiny cast that's mainly based on these three, they all find a way to push past some spotty scripting with great performances all around.

If you're looking for something different to see or have an ax to grind with typical Hollywood fare, you'll definitely find hope in Perkins' latest outing. Heading back to the forest to see a more dim version of the Grimm story that's highlighted by spectacular cinematography, lighting, and a pulsating synth score proves that this is a vital watch for cinema fans across the board. Adding to the pluses are amazing costume and set design that both transport us to a much older and stranger time. 

Chris George