Gretel and Hansel Parent Guide
A bizarre film with stilted dialogue, arthouse production values, and grotesque violence.
Parent Movie Review
Times are hard, and food is scarce. Unable to find work, and with her mother losing her grasp on reality, Gretel (Sophia Lillis) takes her younger brother, Hansel (Sam Leakey) into the forest to look for an old friend of their late father’s. The deeper they go into the woods, the hungrier they become, until they come upon a dark home which smells like a feast. Once inside, they meet Holda (Alice Krige), who invites them to stay, and eat, and learn…
This is a bizarre movie. I spent most of the short runtime trying to figure out who the intended audience was, and I’m still not entirely sure. The dialogue is odd and stilted, which makes me think it’s directed at teens who don’t care about the quality of the writing. But it also takes a lot from arthouse horror, which means a strong focus on aesthetics, sometimes at the expense of clear storytelling. Arthouse horror fans probably aren’t the market either though, both because of the dialogue issues and because the violence is so mild.
The film does have a lot going for it as an arthouse horror, though. The soundtrack is a lot of fun, with foreboding synth reminiscent of The Shining or (on the weirdest end of the spectrum) Mandy. It even samples a little bit of Berlioz’ Dream of a Witches Sabbath, which is both highly appropriate, and reminds me of The Shining even more. Gretel & Hansel is also surprisingly colorful, and the shifting colors reflect characters’ feelings, as well as the mood of the movie.
Alice Krige, who first gave me the willies as a kid when I saw her as the Borg Queen in Star Trek: First Contact seems to have decided to give my adult self nightmares too. Her performance is deliciously creepy, and I firmly hope never to see another one like it or I will forever lose my ability to sleep at night. Sophia Lillis does her best with the awkward script, but young Sam Leakey usually just comes across as strange. It’s a lot to ask of a child actor to bear up under such weird dialogue, when even the adult stars are struggling to make it sound normal.
Parents might struggle to decide if their teen horror fans should watch Gretel & Hansel. The movie is rated PG-13 and has no profanity and only the mildest of sexual innuendo. It also features accidental drug use, which is not glamorized. The real challenge here is violence, which is infrequent but also grotesque. Watching as a creature is slapped so hard that their eye pops out will put any viewer off their movie snacks. And hearing (but not seeing) stories about cannibalism, including references to a mother eating her children, will be stomach-churning for most viewers.
For those of you horror fans who are not deterred by the gruesome content, Gretel & Hansel is a movie best enjoyed with your brain in the off position. Extended thinking is likely to prove confusing, since the film doesn’t seem too concerned with making a lot of sense. Just sit back, enjoy the high-octane nightmare fuel, and try not to slop root beer on yourself at any of the several jump scares. I wouldn’t recommend popcorn either, since this movie has the single grossest sound effects I’ve heard all year.Directed by Oz Perkins. Starring Sophia Lillis, Alice Krige, Jessica De Gouw. Running time: 88 minutes. Theatrical release January 31, 2020. Updated January 31, 2020
Gretel and Hansel
Rating & Content Info
Why is Gretel and Hansel rated PG-13? Gretel and Hansel is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for disturbing images/thematic content, and brief drug material
Violence: A person kills a horse. An individual is forced to eat red-hot iron. Someone is threatened with an ax. A creature’s eye is slapped out of its head. A person is shot in the head with an arrow. Bloody corpses are shown. A large pile of viscera and a severed human arm are visible. There are references to forced cannibalism and a woman eating her children. An individual is burned alive.
Sexual Content: An adult character interrogates a teenage girl about her sex life, although no explicit answers are provided. An individual’s neck and shoulders are shown in the bath.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Starving individuals try to eat some mushrooms in the forest, which turn out to be psychedelic. They are shown hallucinating unpleasantly.
Page last updated January 31, 2020
Loved this movie? Try these books…
Teenagers looking for some spooky reading will enjoy Jonathan Stroud’s Lockwood & Co. series, which focuses on a group of self-employed youngsters who work as London’s leading paranormal investigators.
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Sophia Lillis’ first big project was in the 2017 adaptation of Stephen King’s It (as well as the 2019 sequel), and her fellow cast members have been working in other horror films lately as well. Jaeden Martell, who played Bill Denbrough in It, stars in The Lodge, which releases February 7th 2020. The Turning stars Finn Wolfhard, who played Richie Tozier in It.
If you’re looking for PG-13 horror, check out Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. The book scared me silly as a kid and the movie packs a wallop.