Gretel & Hansel, a new take on the Brothers Grimm fairytale, comes from Oz Perkins, the Hollywood lifer—he’s the son of the late Anthony Perkins—who’s become Hollywood’s foremost purveyor of suffocating dread. Both of his previous indie horror efforts, 2015's The Blackcoat’s Daughter and 2016's I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House, are gorgeously shot, relentlessly unnerving slices of slow-burning terror. Per its first trailer, Gretel & Hansel appears to be the same, its familiar tale intercut from stark, evocative shots, such as a lone farmhouse with red smoke pouring from its chimney.
It star Sophia Lillis headlines the film, which, per EW, unfolds when a “girl (Lillis) and her younger brother (Sammy Leakey) leave home during a time of pestilence and famine. On their travels they encounter a kindly huntsman (Charles Babalola) before finding solace in the home of an elderly woman (Alice Krige) whose motives may not be altogether pure.” Yep, sounds familiar, but Perkins’ work has always been more about atmosphere than story.
“It’s awfully faithful to the original story,” Perkins said. “It’s got really only three principal characters: Hansel, Gretel, and the Witch. We tried to find a way to make it more of a coming of age story. I wanted Gretel to be somewhat older than Hansel, so it didn’t feel like two twelve-year-olds — rather a sixteen-year-old and an eight-year-old. There was more of a feeling like Gretel having to take Hansel around everywhere she goes, and how that can impede one’s own evolution, how our attachments and the things that we love can sometimes get in the way of our growth.”
Gretel & Hansel hits theaters on January 31, 2020.