Korean Movie Review – Hansel and Gretel

Directed by Yim Pil-seong

Horror / 116 minutes

After recently watching “Doomsday Book,” I was in the mood for another Yim Pil-seong film and realized I hadn’t yet seen his acclaimed “Hansel and Gretel.” It won several awards at genre film festivals and has been widely praised for its inventive style.

The film begins as Eun-soo is driving along the highway to visit his sick mother, when he receives a call from his girlfriend telling him that she is pregnant. As they are trying to decide what to do about the baby, Eun-soo veers off the road, crashing his car. He is found by Yeong-hee, who takes him deep into the woods to the house where she lives with her brother, younger sister and seemingly agitated parents. 

It’s a wondrous, colorful place where dreams seem to come true. But so do nightmares, as Eun-soo realizes that he is trapped in a maze of forests, and suspects that it may be the son, Man-bok, who is controlling it all. Desperate to leave so he can visit his mother and girlfriend, Eun-soo tries to get to the bottom of this strange fairy tale gone wrong.

For the first two-thirds of the film, you think you are simply watching a quirky Korean mash-up of a Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale blended with “Children of the Corn.” It’s colorful, interesting and nice to look at, but not that scary. But then the film takes a really, really dark turn and the first hour starts to make more sense as you realize the significance of the “Hansel and Gretel” fairy tale. It was amazing to see how the mood of the film could switch in a split second, but still keep you engrossed in the narrative.

A special mention needs to be given to the children in the film. Very rarely am I impressed by child actors (“Looper” is the most recent occasion I can think of), but you should remember the names Eun Won-jae, Sim Eun-kyung and Jin Ji-hee as they were brilliant, particularly the girls. Jin, the youngest of the three, is a little star in the making. 

She gives a performance so full of sass that you’re actually a little afraid of her at times.

“Hansel and Gretel” is a visual treat, with cinematographer Kim Ji-yeong seemingly using every available color in his palette to give this fairytale world a life of its own. While it might not be totally original, it was certainly a welcome change from the generic paint-by-numbers Korean horror films I have seen recently, and it is highly recommended.

Categories: Reviews

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