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Film / Gretel and Hansel (2020)
aka: Gretel And Hansel

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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.
  • Adaptational Attractiveness: Played With. Holda is an old crone like in the original story, but we learn later on that this is just a façade; her true form is that of a beautiful young woman.
  • Adaptation Expansion: For starters, we never actually had a proper backstory for the Witch before, and she never took Gretel in as an apprentice.
  • 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.
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  • All Witches Have Cats: Holda keeps a hairless cat.
  • Ambiguously Evil: The Enchantress from the prologue. On one hand, she looks very sinister, her powers seem to originate from darkness, and as one who gave the 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.
  • Book Ends: Gretel wears white at the beginning and the end.
  • 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. In the climax, Gretel uses it to hold off (and eventually kill) Holda.
  • Darker and Edgier: The original Grimm story was already quite scary, but it was still a fairytale. This film is a dark and moody horror film that lacks the original's lighter elements, like the Witch's gingerbread house. This is also one of the few versions where Gretel herself becomes a witch.
  • Dies Differently in Adaptation: In the original tale, the children famously vanquished the Witch by shoving her into her own oven. The film gives us a more gruesome twist on that scene, with Gretel magically pinning Holda against the wall with her stang, where she is set ablaze by the fire that was meant to kill Hansel. Then Gretel finishes her off by shoving the stang even further, decapitating the witch.
  • Dirty Old Man: The man interviewing Gretel for the housekeeping position is only interested in deflowering her.
  • Fattening the Victim: Holda's motive for feeding Gretel and Hansel.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Minimalist Cast: Past the 20 minute mark, the film consists primarily of three characters.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Parental Abandonment:
    • Gretel and Hansel’s dad took off to find work and they haven't seem him since.
    • 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.
  • Patricide: The child in the pink cap made her father eat a red-hot pole.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Wham Shot:
    • The emergence of young Holda, followed by her transforming a bucket of mutilated children's parts into delicious food... the same food that she had been feeding to Hansel and Gretel.
    • At the end, Gretel's fingers turn pitch-black just like Holda's, implying that she is slowly being corrupted by dark magic.
  • 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, the witch of this "Hansel and Gretel" story. As in the fairytale, she uses her evil powers to lure children into her home and cannibalize them. Her black dress and pointed hat even evoke the classic appearance of a witch. She wasn't always like this, based on her Dark And Troubled Backstory.

Alternative Title(s): Gretel And Hansel