This strange, austere, artful, violent retelling of the old fairy tale is one of those movies that's more moody than scary. It won't be to every taste, but it's weirdly poetic and mesmerizing. With Gretel & Hansel and two previous chillers (The Blackcoat's Daughter, I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House), director Osgood "Oz" Perkins -- the son of Psycho star Anthony Perkins -- has established himself as a confident, patient creator of chills who takes risks and is decidedly out of the mainstream. His focus on framing, textures, shapes, silences, and music -- rather than jump scares, shocks, or screaming -- makes his films a little harder to sell.
His Gretel & Hansel, with Gretel now coming first in the title, is also a story about women. Triangles permeate the film, suggesting the strength of both the witch and Gretel, and Perkins plays around with other recurring themes and symbols, too. The overall tone can feel a bit academic and perhaps a bit chilly, but the casting saves the day. Lillis, who was so delightful and spunky in the two It films, warms up her scenes with her character's younger brother, and Krige (the Borg Queen in Star Trek: First Contact) has a slithery quality that makes her witch somehow hypnotic. The throwback electronic music score by French composer Rob also helps create an unsettling, otherworldly quality. But overall, this is a movie about a young woman moving from a defensive position in the world to a more powerful offensive one.