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Gretel & Hansel Movie Review - Tasty Visuals but Slow Payoff

This grim tale is really about female empowerment.

Reviewed by on Jan 31, 2020
Rating: 4 Star Rating

Kidzworld saw Gretel & Hansel starring It’s Sophia Lillis. She shines as a homeless teen who protects her little brother when, while starving in a forest, they are taken in by a very strange witch. Check our movie review!

In Gretel & Hansel, 16-year-old Gretel (Sophia Lillis) and her young brother Hansel (Sammy Leakey) are on their own when their dad dies and their unbalanced mom goes quite mad. Wandering and starving in a forest alone, they are protected briefly by a huntsman (Charles Babalola) who gives them a map to find foresters to protect them.

Gretel and Hansel approach the cottageGretel and Hansel approach the cottageCourtesy of Orion Pictures

When they find a cottage full of yummy food on the way, they fall under the spell of evil witch Holda (Alice Krige) who wants to train Gretel in all things witchy while Hansel might just be dinner!

Gretel & Hansel Movie Trailer



Driven From Home

Gretel tells us the grim fairy tale of a poor young girl who, as a baby was cured of an illness by a witch who left her with the gift of second sight. She could read the future and also kill with her mind.

A witch threatens a baby in an old fairy taleA witch threatens a baby in an old fairy taleCourtesy of Orion Pictures

The girl was banished to the deep woods where she lured other children to her side. Terribly poor, Gretel hopes to find work to feed herself, her young brother and disturbed mother but a creepy man supposed to offer work, only comes on to her. Back home, she and Hansel must leave when their mom tries to kill them.

Scary Woods  

Wandering in the woods looking for food and work, the siblings come upon a seemingly empty house and try to sleep inside but a huge, crazy man tries to kill them.

A scary man chases Gretel and HanselA scary man chases Gretel and HanselCourtesy of Orion Pictures

They are rescued by a hunter who feeds them and tells them to follow a map to a group of foresters where they can work and be cared for. They are warned not to stray from the path. Deep in the woods they see three dark women in the distance wearing pointed hats. When about to pass out from lack of food, they find mushrooms, eat them and have a strange “trip”, laughing for the first time in ages.

Gretel and Hansel deep in the woodsGretel and Hansel deep in the woodsCourtesy of Orion Pictures

Weird Cottage

Deeper in the woods Gretel and Hansel come upon an old gate and a discarded doll. Hansel smells cake and the duo ends up following the smell to a small cottage. Looking through the window they see a huge feast set out on a table. Starving, Hansel crawls through a window and is grabbed by a strange woman inside. She emerges with Hansel and seems kind, inviting the siblings inside for a meal. Gretel senses evil but is overwhelmed with hunger and stays for food and sleep. Gretel dreams of a mirror in which strange children mumble about being eaten.

Gretel and Hansel are offered a feastGretel and Hansel are offered a feastCourtesy of Orion Pictures

Strange Lessons  

Gretel and Hansel are offered breakfast and work around the cottage. Holda shows Gretel how to mix and use various herbs and oils and teaches Hansel to use an axe.

Holda teaches Hansel to sharpen an axeHolda teaches Hansel to sharpen an axeCourtesy of Orion Pictures

She shows the kids how to play chess, adding that “the Queen can do what she wants”. Gretel dreams again, this time of bodies under sheets on a table that suddenly start to bleed. In the morning she tells her brother that they should leave to find the foresters. She feels that souls are trapped here and it is an evil place. Hansel is just glad to be fed and have a place to sleep.

Holda mixes herbs and potionsHolda mixes herbs and potionsCourtesy of Orion Pictures

Bad Dreams and Spellcasting

Hansel wanders off into the forest and finds a pentagram carved on a tree and kids’ shoes hanging from it. Meanwhile, the witch Holda convinces Gretel that she too has powers and shows her that she can make a stick move. Is Holda looking for an apprentice? Later Gretel goes outside and is pleased that she can make the trees bend to her will. Creeped out, Hansel finally wants to leave. Holda tells Gretel “good, you should be on your own”. The boy can’t be found.

Gretel discovers the trees obey herGretel discovers the trees obey herCourtesy of Orion Pictures

Secret Room

Unable to sleep, Gretel finds a secret room. Hansel is inside but is in a trance and can’t respond to her. A young witch emerges through a dark liquid coming from a pipe. Could this still be Holda as a young woman? She dumps human organs and an arm out of a basket and the items magically become food, apples, etc. Gretel is freaked. Later, Holda tells her that her brother is poison to her. She must consume poison. It tastes sweet. We learn that Holda was the mother of the powerful little girl in the fairy tale. She abandoned her in the woods.

The witch Holda starts to frighten HanselThe witch Holda starts to frighten HanselCourtesy of Orion Pictures

Horrible Fate?

Later, Gretel returns to the creepy room to find the younger Holda and a fire pit meant to “cook” Hansel. He is guided to say goodbye to Gretel who is chained to a table. When the witch forces the boy to climb a ladder leading to a cage that will be lowered into the flames, Gretel must use her newfound powers to save him. Can she? What will be her future? Will she and Hansel be together or apart? Will she end up a powerful force for good or evil? Can the souls of murdered children be freed?

Gretel snoops around the cottageGretel snoops around the cottageCourtesy of Orion Pictures

Wrapping Up

Gretel & Hansel is visually stunning, dark and creepy. It’s a twisted tale of female empowerment. The film unfolds quite slowly but the images are eerie, atmospheric and scary/disturbing.

Sophia is great as GretelSophia is great as GretelCourtesy of Orion Pictures

Sophia Lillis has an awesome screen presence that we’ve enjoyed since her portrayal of Nancy Drew and through the It films and her Gretel is wonderful as she discovers her inner power and weighs the pros and cons of using it. Alice Krige has successfully played strong, creepy women for ages. Recently she did so in TV’s “Carnival Row” and, in the ‘90’s, as the Borg “Queen” in Star Trek: First Contact and a mad cult leader in the eerie Silent Hill in 2006. Her witchy Holda is a freak show wonder.

Sophia Lillis and Samuel Leakey at the L.A. premiere for Gretel and HanselSophia Lillis and Samuel Leakey at the L.A. premiereCourtesy of Orion Pictures

Gretel and Hansel won’t be for younger kids. Not just that it might be too scary as much as that the pace will be too slow for them. This isn’t a movie full of jump scares but of unsettling, building tension as young Gretel must learn just how powerful she can be and decide how to use her newfound “gifts”. We enjoyed the look of the movie and the performances so award four stars.

Gretel & Hansel Movie Rating: 4

Gretel and Hansel Movie PosterCourtesy of Orion Pictures

See Gretel & Hansel in theaters now.

What Scares You?

Do witchy tales frighten you or are real happenings in our world scary enough? Would you want to have magical powers? What would you do with them? Tell everyone your take on witchy fairy tales by leaving a comment!

By: Lynn Barker