I’ve watched enough Korean films to have a favourite but that is not to imply I know anything about Korean cinema as I don’t. I bought Hansel and Gretel as the dvd cover dared to proclaim that the film managed “to outdo the likes of Pans Labyrinth and The Orphanage” and I thought that I shall be the judge of that! I then proceeded to mentally trash talk the dvd cover all the way to the checkout.
PLOT: Eun-Soo (Jeong-Myeong Cheon) crashes his car and ends up losing his way in the woods. He is found by Young Hee (Eun Won-Jae) and taken to her house wherein he meets her mother, father, brother and sister. Eun-Soo stays the night and leaves the following morning to find his way back to the main road but by nightfall he has arrived back at the house. After their parents mysteriously disappear the Eun-Soo is trapped in the house by the children who don’t want him to leave. Eun-Soo discovers the children are not what they appear but before he can escape a sinister man arrives and puts their lives in danger. END PLOT
The plot moves along at a steady pace with Eun-Soo slowly getting to grips with his new surroundings. The main twist in this version of Hansel and Gretel is that it is the children who are bewitching the adults. The parallels with the traditional fairytale become clear in the third act when the horrific reasons for the children’s actions are revealed.
The cast are all unfamiliar but Cheon does make for a great everyman who transforms into the hero by the end of the film.
The three children, Eun Won-Jae, Kyeong-ik Kim and Ji-hee Jin are all suitably creepy/innocent. By the third act the cast raise their game with the child actors all putting in impressive performances during flashbacks.
Hansel and Gretel is a picture perfect fairytale full of bright colours, sweets and toys but as the film progresses the bright colours turn darker, the toys become broken and even the origins of the food has dark connotations. The film looks stunning from start to finish and there are some nice special effects scattered throughout to enhance the fantasy element.
The similarities to del Toro’s films are justified and I am hard pressed to see what the Great One may have done differently. Hansel and Gretel is a slow burner but a totally engrossing one from start to finish - it gets 9/10.
I have to admit that the film was purchased just after I had bought tickets to see Hansel and Gretel: The Opera. This turned out to be an excruciating experience that I wouldn't wish upon my greatest enemy.