Looking at the movie release calendar, 2020 is kicking things off with a whole lot of horror, including both THE GRUDGE and THE TURNING. But while those films are respectively a remake and an adaptation of a classic novel, GRETEL & HANSEL is pure fairy tale horror.
Directed by Osgood Perkins, and starring Sophia Lillis (IT) and newcomer Sammy Leakey in the titular roles, GRETEL & HANSEL looks to be in the tradition of past adaptations of classic bedtime stories that are brought to the big screen with a scary twist. And to celebrate the upcoming release, we thought we’d run down the elements that every fairy tale horror movie needs.
Key Transplanted Parts From the Original Story
If you’re trying to bring a classic fairy tale to life, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to totally abandon the source material. This in mind, any fairy tale horror movie needs to stick as close as they can to the original text, while also leaving enough room to be unique. GRETEL & HANSEL certainly seems as though it's taking this route, as the film is very much about a brother and sister left to fend on their own in the woods, who come across a witch in a house filled with delicious food.
Feed Into What’s Inherently Disturbing About the Story
While the primary audience for fairy tales is typically children, anyone who has ever really examined the material will realize that there are some truly terrible things that occur. For example, in the original story of Hansel and Gretel, things are honestly kind of horrific even before the witch shows up, as we’re talking about KIDS BEING ABANDONED IN A FOREST. The style that GRETEL & HANSEL is bringing to the table definitely seems to highlight everything that is already scary about the original work.
Maintain a Balance Between the Supernatural and Reality
A lot of fairy tales are based in the realm of fantasy, and that can be a wonderful tool for a horror filmmaker, provided a proper balance is struck in the adaptation. Being in the fantasy genre gives the story freedom to go to some serious extremes — like, for example, the witch in GRETEL & HANSEL using dark magic and gaining strength from cannibalism. At the same time, though, what makes a story really scary is when it’s relatable, and you can easily imagine yourself in the shoes of the characters. This is where the first act of GRETEL & HANSEL has an advantage, given the terror of being abandoned in a forest.
Take Advantage of the Setting
Grimms' Fairy Tales were first published all the way back in the early 19th century, and part of the charm in adapting them is keeping them in that era. (Being lost in the woods is even scarier when you don’t have a cell phone.) Furthermore, there is great hope that Osgood Perkins will really take advantage of the creepy settings with the film’s cinematography, including both the dense, foreboding forest and the creepy witch’s house.
GRETEL & HANSEL will be in theatres on January 31.