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Film / Gretel and Hansel (2020)

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"A fairy tale has a way to get into your head."

Gretel and Hansel: A Grim Fairy Tale, is a 2020 American supernatural horror Grimmification adapted from Hansel and Gretel. The film is directed by Oz Perkins (The Blackcoat's Daughter, I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House), produced by Fred Berger, Brian Kavanaugh-Jones, and Dan Kagan, and the screenplay is written by Perkins and Rob Hayes. In the film, Gretel leads her younger brother Hansel through the forest in search of work and food after being kicked out of their family home. They stumble upon the home of a witch. Starring Sophia Lillis as Gretel, Sam Leakley as Hansel and Alice Krige as Holda, the Witch.

The film was released on January 31st, 2020.


This film provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Gretel and Hansel's mother forces them out when Gretel fails to secure a job for them, going as far as threatening to hack her to bits if they don't leave.
  • Action Survivor: Gretel doesn’t have a lot of physical prowess, but where Hansel is concerned she proves that she’s not a Neutral Female.
  • Adult Fear: And how! There’s the fear of not being able to provide for your children, children being preyed upon for some reason or another, Troubling Unchildlike Behavior, the list goes on.
  • Age Lift: Gretel is usually not much older than ten in most adaptations, but here she's played by seventeen year old Sophia Lillis. In the original fairy tale, she's also the younger sister of Hansel, while here she's the elder.
  • All Witches Have Cats: Holda keeps a hairless cat.
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  • Ambiguously Evil: The Enchantress from prologue. On one hand, she looks very sinister, her powers seem to originate from darkness, and as one who gave gift of magic to the Beautiful Child, she is indirectly responsible for everything in the movie. On other hand, she is a healer, Child's father agreed to trade so his daughter might live, and she doesn't do anything malicious on screen, in fact she appears in visions to warn Gretel and Hansel about Holda's true nature.
  • Ambiguously Human: The ghoulish man encountered by Gretel and Hansel. Is he some sort of monster, or is he just crazy?
  • Ambiguous Time Period: It's not clear when the film takes place, though feudalism is still in place. The technology level would suggest some time in the 1600s. On the other hand, characters frequently use idioms and phrases that sound fairly modern.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling: Hansel has his moments.
  • Big Sister Instinct: Gretel has this towards Hansel, but it’s most apparent during the climax.
  • Big Eater: Hansel complains of being hungry and he’s more than happy to feast at Holda’s table.
  • Bittersweet Ending: On one hand, Gretel and Hansel defeat Holda unscathed, and the spirits of her previous victims pass on. On the other hand, they go their separate ways with no indication if their paths will ever cross again, and there’s a possibility that Gretel will become a witch as well.
  • Bizarrchitecture The architecture features many ancient- or medieval-looking structures, but also shockingly modern elements. Holda's cabin, especially, has a degree of precision and regular construction that is disturbingly modern. Her basement, with its modern industrial design and what might be a plexiglass skylight, even moreso.
  • Bookends: Gretel wears white at the beginning and the end.
  • Boyish Short Hair: Gretel has close-cropped locks.
  • Canon Foreigner: The Huntsman, played by Charles Babalola, is original to the movie and has no appearance in the brothers Grimm fairy tale.
  • Catapult Nightmare: Happens to Gretel a few times when she and Hansel arrive at Holda’s.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Holda’s two-pronged stang.
  • Children Are Innocent: Hansel, when he asks why Gretel didn’t take the housekeeping job.
  • Coming-of-Age Story: This was Oz Perkins' vision for Gretel's story arc.
  • Creepy Child: The child in the pink cap.
  • Dirty Old Man: The man interviewing Gretel for the housekeeping position is only interested in deflowering her.
  • Disappeared Dad: Gretel and Hansel’s dad took off to find work and they haven’t seem him since.
  • Fattening the Victim: Holda's motive for feeding Gretel and Hansel.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Holda, even after she figures out that Gretel is onto her.
  • Foreshadowing: In one of her dreams, Gretel approaches the beautiful child, whose head falls off when Gretel touches her, an indication that the child isn't the true culprit.
  • Food Porn: Holda likes to keep a laden table for mealtimes. Averted hard when Gretel sees for herself that Holda’s enchanting human remains to look and taste like delicious food.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: Flashbacks to the origins of the girl in the pink cap show a faceless woman wearing a ring with a black stone. Holda is seen wearing a ring identical to it. This ring confirms her identity as mother to the girl in the pink cap.
  • Green Thumb: Gretel is shown to have this when she’s tapping into her powers as a witch.
  • Grimmification: The story is darker and less fantastical than the original fairy tale. The witch doesn't live in a gingerbread house and treat the kids to sweets. She lives in a creepy house and gives the kids meat that is made from children. The film also gives the witch a backstory and makes her relationship with Gretel more morally ambiguous.
  • Guile Hero: Played with. Gretel doesn’t let on that she knows what Holda is up to. Holda figures it out after Gretel tries to drug her.
  • Hot Witch: Holda is revealed to be this. Her appearance as a half blind hag was just an illusion to lure in potential victims.
  • I am a Humanitarian: The witch pulls a long string of human's hair out of her mouth. Made worse when it's revealed that the food Holda shared with the siblings is made of children.
  • Karma Houdini: There's no apparent comeuppance for the Beautiful Child. In fact, we have no idea what happened to her.
  • Kill It with Fire: Holda is immolated in her own fire, breaking her spell.
  • The Lost Woods: It wouldn't be a Hansel and Gretel adaptation without dark and scary woods.
  • Minimalist Cast: Past the 20 minute mark, the film consists primarily of three characters.
  • Missing Mom: Hansel returns home without Gretel, but their mother is nowhere to be seen. The axe she originally struck into the table is still there so it’s implied she left not long after Gretel and Hansel did.
  • Mushroom Samba: Gretel and Hansel accidentally eat psychedelic mushrooms and trip balls. In spite of the surreal aspects of the film, we see none of their hallucinations.
  • Named by the Adaptation: The witch is given a name in this adaptation: Holda.
  • Narrator: Holda narrates the origin of the Beautiful Child in the beginning of the film. Gretel takes over narration from then on.
  • Never Learned to Read: Gretel mentions twice that she can’t read.
  • Nice Hat: Most of the characters are seen with headwear at least once, it its most evident with the beautiful child’s pink cap. Holda wears a very classic witch's hat in the third act.
  • No Name Given: There’s no mention as to the given name of the Beautiful Child.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: Holda argues that she and Gretel are walking down similar paths.
  • Offing the Offspring: Holda’s first victims were her two older children. She gloats she was so eager to embrace her new powers that she "barely even chewed" when she devoured them.
  • Off with His Head!: Not only does Holda catch fire, but it’s beheading that finishes her off.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Judging by how thin it is, it's not clear whether the American actress Sophia Lillis was trying to do an Irish accent the whole time or was deliberately only putting a lilt on the occasional word.
  • Properly Paranoid: Gretel quickly suspects that something's off about Holda.
  • Red and Black and Evil All Over: Red and black smoke is shown to emerge from Holda's chimney, as a sign of her wickedness.
  • Red Herring: The girl from the beginning is thought to be Holda in her childhood, but it turns out that Holda is the child's mother.
  • Red Right Hand: Holda's fingers are black. In the end Gretel's fingers also turn black, suggesting that she might not escape the corrupting influence that turned Holda evil.
  • Resentful Guardian: Holda reveals that her daughter was rotten to the core and she hated her for it, but the resentment elevated after she was responsible for the death of her husband.
  • Riddle for the Ages: What happened to the Beautiful Child? We never find out.
  • Rule of Symbolism:
    • Gretel is warned by the huntsman to “look out for wolves.” He means this figuratively because he says that wolves can be charming and silver tongued. Holda, a predatory witch, has images of wolves on the walls inside her house, likely alluding to Little Red Riding Hood another Brothers Grimm story with similar themes of stranger danger.
    • There’s frequent upwards pointing triangles throughout the movie. They can refer to the witches pyramid, a concept referring to five components of magic. In Wiccan culture, they can also represent fire and energy that destroys.
    • Gretel looks in a triangular peephole in Holda’s front door, briefly appearing as the eye of providence. Eyes are often considered symbols of judgment and consciousness, alluding to her early suspicions of Holda.
  • Scenery Porn: It's one thing the critics all seem to agree on. From the sumptuous forest settings to the colored light pouring through huge stained-glass windows, the film is quite beautiful.
  • Self-Made Orphan: The child in the pink cap made her father eat a red-hot pole.
  • Sequel Hook: Multiple hooks. Gretel becoming a witch in her own right, Hansel returning for his axe to begin his own story, and the girl in the pink cap still being out there.
  • Shout-Out: According to the director, the red-capped and white-spotted mushrooms that Gretel and Hansel end up tripping on were visually inspired by the ones from Super Mario Bros..
  • Unexplained Accent: Gretel speaks with the barest wisp of an Irish accent over an American accent. Hansel and the Huntsman speak with English accents. Holda speaks with an Irish accent (though the actress is South African). It's not clear why all of these people are speaking differently when they live in the same area or are in the same family.
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: It's unclear where the film takes place. The fairy tale is German, and Hansel and Gretel retain their German names, but everyone speaks with a variety of accents. It's not even clear whether it's supposed to take place on Earth or if it's an entirely fantastical world.
  • Wicked Witch: Holda. Though she wasn't always like this, based on her Dark And Troubled Backstory.

Alternative Title(s): Gretel And Hansel


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