Short and not nearly as sweet as a house made of candy, “Gretel and Hansel”, the latest rendition of The Grimm’s Fairy Tales story, “Hansel and Gretel”, made an eerie attempt at scaring moviegoers with drawn-out scenes, occult imagery and mysterious sounds. 

“Gretel and Hansel”, released Friday Jan. 31, 2020, marketed itself as a horror film; the only horrifying aspect within the film however was its storytelling. Director Osgood Perkins has been criticized for creating not-quite-horror ‘horror’ films and focusing on spooky cinematography over story and plot. Perkins follows suit with this newest installment which he co-wrote.

The movie establishes itself as creepy, drawing upon occultist symbols, images and shadows in the woods. Lit candles with no responsible party, a random zombie killed with an arrow through its head (with zero relevance), and even the expected cannibalism fail to provide shock value.

Nothing within the film delivers that teeth clenching fear or anxiety expected from the genre. Some jump scares would be welcomed, but few if any exist. Some cinematographic angles and chilling music set the mood, but the events fail to coalesce.

As tradition dictates, two children, Gretel (Sophia Lillis from “IT”) and Hansel (Samuel Leakey) belong to a family who’s done and out. Unlike the traditional story, Gretel is older, and their father has passed. Their mother demands they leave after Gretel fails getting an unkindly job with the local lord.

Mother is starving and they surely will too if they don’t leave on their own.

Into the deep, dark woods they go. Gretel tells her brother stories about a pretty young maiden who’d been given dark gifts and banished into the forest for her evil ways. Predictably, parts of the myth are revealed as true throughout the film.

In a strange moment, the two are saved from immediate danger and starvation by a friendly hunter (Charles Babalola) whom seems to exist only to give the children direction.

Returning to the woods, Gretel and Hansel eventually stumble upon a very triangular house in the woods. Hansel immediately smells delicious sweets. The house isn’t made of sugarcane, but it doesn’t stop Hansel from breaking in. Gretel nervously attempts to save her brother when she sees someone inside, but is instead invited by the seemingly old and harmless woman living there (Alice Krige) and joins after some hesitation.

The children quarrel over staying or leaving, changing positions as the plot develops. Gretel is untrusting at first but an interesting relationship with the old woman, Holda, emerges. The woman discovers an intimate connection with Gretel and truths unfold.

In some ways the film attempts to tell the story of a woman coming into power and discovering her abilities even at the behest of others; and her attempt in assisting another pursue similar goals. The story is strongly underdeveloped however, never quite making the mark it begs too. The film ends on a dull and uninteresting note.

Within the film exists potential for a deeper message, a truly horrifying thriller, or both, but neither is executed well.

The plot in “Gretel and Hansel” is sloppy. With monotonous voice-overs overexplaining the story, plot lines unsure where they want to go and scenes that exist only to move forward, the film is likely to put some to sleep.

Some may be impressed by the mood-setting cinematography or the musical score, but the slow pace, plot holes and short run time (which some may feel blessed for) shows the lack of ingenuity needed to make the film particularly stand out.

“Gretel and Hansel” is considered a low budget film at only $5 million dollars. $6 million was earned opening weekend worldwide making it profitable. Though not considered anything special, Orion will likely consider it a success.

The film’s PG-13 rating is appropriate for visuals of dismembered body parts, blood, some suggestive reproductive discussion and occultic imagery. Few curse words are used and graphical violence is minimal.

One of the shortest films this year at 1 hour and 25 minutes, the flick won’t take much of your afternoon if you’re curious, but don’t be looking for anything too sweet with “Gretel and Hansel”.