[Screen It]


(2020) (Sophia Lillis, Alice Krige) (PG-13)

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Horror: Sent away by their mother, a girl and her younger brother happen upon an older woman living alone in the woods -- who may or may not be a witch -- who gives them food and shelter.
With their father dead and their mother mentally unstable, teenager Gretel (SOPHIA LILLIS) and her younger brother Hansel (SAMMY LEAKEY) are sent on their way, hoping to find a place to live with new guardians. Traveling through thick woods and eventually growing quite hungry, they happen upon a house inside which sits a banquet of food, seemingly for their taking. Hansel goes in to grab some but is confronted by an older woman, Holda (ALICE KRIGE), who ends up welcoming the kids with both food and beds in which they can sleep.

But while Hansel is quite content with their new situation, Gretel grows increasingly uneasy, what with Holda's somewhat creepy behavior, including seeing the girl as something of her otherworldly protégé. And then there are the nightmares that Gretel experiences that begin to blend with her reality. All of which makes her question what's really happening and what Holda's intentions are toward them.

OUR TAKE: 4 out of 10
Our reviewing policy for films that aren't shown in advance to critics is that we'll only provide a paragraph or two about the film's artistic merits or, more accurately, lack thereof. After all, life is too short to spend any more effort than that on a movie that even the releasing studio knows isn't any good (which is why they hid it from reviewers before its release).

With a flip in the order of the names in the title of the more than 200-year-old fable, one could certainly wonder what other changes director Osgood Perkins and screenwriter Rob Hayes might bring to the familiar tale of two kids and a hungry witch in the woods. Would the children suddenly develop an appetite for well-aged sorceress?

Well, while the culinary aspects remain the same, the film does have a few changes up its sleeve that could have made this a fascinating offering. Alas, while there's atmosphere aplenty (in terms of cinematography, score, production design and such) and both Sophia Lillis (as the world-weary and coming of age teen) and especially Alice Krige (as the witch) deliver rather tasty performances, the overall effort feels half-baked.

While it gets some points for what works -- not to mention an always welcome brisk running time of under 90 minutes -- you'll likely feel it leaves too much potential, not to mention genuine scares on the table. It rates as a 4 out of 10.

Reviewed January 30, 2020 / Posted January 31, 2020

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