Watched Jul 24, 2012
Josh Keown’s review:
“We’ll be in big trouble if the kids find us.”
Soo-jeong (Young-nam Jang)
Trust Asia to take an already dark and twisted fairy tale, in this case Hansel and Gretel by the Brothers Grimm, and shape it into something far more perverse and distorted. It seems to be a common facet of Asian cinema, to venture into territories most American and British films are wary to approach. Pil-Sung Yin’s second feature outing, aptly titled Hansel & Gretel, is a sophisticated, intelligent and surprisingly moving entry into the genre. Think less err… (Insert bad Asian horror film here, I literally cannot think of any.) and more like Suicide Club (2001), Tale of Two Sisters (2003) or The Host (2006).
Throughout the early stages of the film, it does play out like the typical Asian horror film would, but quickly establishes itself in its own right. The plot follows father-to-be Eun-Soo, whom crashes on a country road. He wakes, lost in a forest, and meets a mysterious girl that leads him to her fairytale-like home nestled deep in the woods. Her family are a bit odd, to say the least, and the situation swiftly escalates as secrets are revealed. To say any more would spoil the marvellous plot crafted by Pil and writer Min-sook Kim, but it’s fair to say the story only loosely follows the fable upon which it is based.
Hansel & Gretel manages to elevate itself above the traditional Asian horror film in most departments. The plotline weaves out in ways you wouldn’t first expect, with many of my own initial assumptions proven wrong. The acting from all the cast is terrific, especially the three children, whom deliver believable, tender performances.
The film really succeeds, however, in its stunning art direction and soundtrack. Visually, the film is spectacular. The director uses the cinematography and colours to paint a picture of their own. He manipulates the vibrancy to great effect, by marrying it with darkness and sorrow. It creates a palpable atmosphere that, at least on the surface, appears pleasant and inviting, but all the while also feels oppressive and tense. The musical score is equally magnificent, generating both dread and lyrical beauty. The soundtrack is matched perfectly in every scene, fitting the ambiance wherever used.
VERDICT; A melancholy, beautiful film that manages to wed horror with a genuinely woeful tale. Without spoiling anything, by its conclusion this is less a horror film and more a tragic, sorrowful work of art.
It almost moved me to tears. And the only time horror movies usually make my cry is when they’re a painfully, wretchedly, bad experience to endure. I urge you to watch it.
4/5 or 8/10