I thought I'd foam in the mouth with yet another demonic kid horror movie, given the countless of such genre movies out there which set out to make innocent looking kids harbour plenty of ill intention behind them. But I thought the original Hansel and Gretel fairy tale was quite dark too, especially with the ending. You know, the kids who come to know of this gingerbread house where everything and anything can be eaten to fill their empty stomachs, only to culminate in their stuffing of the owner into a large stove so that they can take possession of the property to live (and eat) happily ever after.
OK, so if you believe my synopsis of the fairy tale, then you, like me, probably saw what many others don't. Anyway this Korean movie doesn't come close, only remotely in a certain scene, and the borrowing of the English title. The gingerbread house got replaced with a nice looking and inedible cottage in the middle of lush forest, though the amount of artificially coloured food still remains the same. Instead of two kids, we get three, who seem happy on the outside, but inside harbours some deep, dark, and unseen secrets. Until of course the movie decides to explain it all, as expected, in the last 30 minutes to make everything sensible.
While the poster might suggest horror, it's more of a thriller with little surprises. We all know that there's always some hideous back story that made the characters who they are currently, and almost always involve some bad episodes in life thus far. This time, it involves adults, and these children begin to develop suspicion of all adults who come into their lives. Pity Eun-Soo (Cheon Jeong-myeong), who got involved in a car accident, and got led by one of the children to live with them in their house. But the family in the Happy Children's Home, don't seem all the bit normal, and soon he discovers that he too seemed trapped within this surreal world with zero communications with the outside world. Heck, even the television's unplugged yet the only programme available is some really sadistic cartoon involving a rabbit and a bear.
The story might at first seem very ordinary though bleak, but grew from strength to strength as it went on, nevermind weak attempts at trying to elicit some cheap scares. I thought its basis of a story was strong, even though it did have a very screwed up version of the fairy tale most of us probably already know about. The set designs and art direction were all beautiful to look at, and most times you'll shift your focus to admiring the sets when events start to get repetitive, with Eun-Soo's attempts to get out of the house and the enchanted forest in more than 4 attempts, of course thwarted each time. Supporting characters like the adults who come and go, at first might make you scratch your head, but let that be the least of your worries, because once Santa Claus came visiting, you'll have to suspend your disbelief, otherwise this movie wouldn't work.
Hansel and Gretel's a pretty decent thriller, a mix of groundhog-day-ness with the usual trappings of cheap horror movies, boosted though by its rich production values. Themes of wanting to belong and non-reciprocated friendship, together with major trust issues, lift its plain storyline, and all round fine acting by the kids who will at first scare you, and then lead you to want to give them all a hug.