This one took a while to finally make it’s way to DVD, but the wait is over, and now Neko can give you her review of “Hansel & Gretel”, the latest Korean Horror/ Fantasy to be based on an old European Fairy Tale….
The synopsis I found for it reads as follows: “A reckless young man, Eun-soo drives to his mother’s and has a car accident. When Eun-soo wakes up, he meets a mysterious girl and is led to her fairytale-like house in the middle of the forest. There, Eun-soo is trapped with the girl and her siblings who never age. Soon he learns all the adults who have visited or stayed in the house have met mysterious yet terrible ends. More shockingly, their cruel deaths are drawn in details and made into a fairytale book by the children. Scared Eun-soo tries to find the way out, but the house is secluded in the forest with no way out. And then, Eun-soo discovers a book which tells a brutal end of none other than himself!”
Ooooh! Scary sounding stuff… and the Koreans usually do really good horror movies that your Favorite Catgirl Princess likes, so let’s find out, shall we?
Those of you familiar with other Korean Fairy Tale/ horror crossovers like “The Red Shoes” and “Cinderella” know that these modern adaptions are never quite what you expect… being only loosely related to the stories they retell. Such is the case here. The cute kids aren’t exactly what you’d expect… and most certainly aren’t the ones in the most danger throughout the film. That position goes to Eun-soo (played by Chun Jeong-myoung), who has an unfortunate car accident way out in the middle of nowhere while arguing on the phone with his estranged girlfriend. Hurt, groggy, and confused he wanders off the road and into the forest where he gets found by a young girl, Yeong-hi (played by Sim Eun-kyung), right out of “Little Red Riding Hood”. She takes him to a strangely beautiful house nestled deep within the wood, where her seemingly loving family warmly receives him.
There is something creepy and curious about this house, which used to be an orphanage, the “Happy Children’s Home”, it’s just too sugary and sweet and…. “gingerbready” to be real. But does Eun-soo figure that out? Naaahhh….
It’s a Victorian/ 50’s style mishmash crammed full of toys, porcelain dolls, enough fancy cakes and other sweets to induce diabetic comas, and weird bunny-print wallpapers….. (and Neko never did figure out the constant bunny related imagery scattered throughout the film….) all displayed in gorgeously saturated colors that hide eerie shadows just around the edges. The kids themselves are just not right…. The eldest, Man-seok, has a dangerous temper totally out of place for a child, while his sister Yeong-hi sleepwalks and youngest sister Jeong-sun repeatedly tortures and destroys her dolls. The parents are charming in a “Leave It To Beaver” way and just cater to the kids so much that it just tells you that beneath their seemingly happy facade they are hiding something…… something disturbing and wrong. To make matters worse, the parents disappear almost as soon as Eun-soo arrives, leaving a cryptic note asking him, a total stranger, to look after the kids until their return… yeah… right.. Not gonna happen, you just know THAT.
He tries to leave. But it’s just futile. The forest is deep and dark….. with a labyrinthine quality that defies his every attempt at escape…. The kids tell him it’s no big deal. They beg him to stay with them, to be their “uncle”…. and to stop worrying about his girlfriend and the baby she’s having. Then it begins to snow…. trapping him but good.
Another couple happen along…. also the victims of an “unfortunate car accident”. The kids start to work on them as well…. convincing Eun-soo that the missing parents might not even have been the kid’s parents at all. Worse…. the “wife” is scheming and larcenous and the man acts more like a sociopath than the Pastor he professes to be. Now poor Eun-soo has to balance the problems of escaping from the kids with his desire to protect them from these two unwholesome characters.
By now… you’ve probably figured out we’re firmly in that old “Twilight Zone” episode where Billy Mumy had those creepy uber-powerful psychic powers going on and built himself the “perfect” family. Yep…. that’s pretty much where we’re going all right, but “Hansel and Gretel” does go there with a couple of nice twists…. and more than a few scares. So Neko isn’t really put off by the plot similarities….
There are some truly crazy elements here…. like the endless maze that is the attic, bigger inside than the whole entire house and perfect for getting so lost in that even the kids can’t find you. A secret door to nowhere out in those dark, dark woods holding every secret that ever happened here at the “Happy Children’s Home”…. A flashback to the 1950’s featuring a character scarier than any child eating witch….. a psychopathic child molester running the “Orphanage from Hell” itself….. Oh!! And even an honest to goodness visit from Santa Claus. Yep…. I didn’t see THAT one coming…..
Well…. if you want to know how it comes out, you are going to have to just watch the movie yourself, Neko’s not gonna spoil it for you. The good news is that this one is really, really worth the time and effort. Neko gives “Hansel and Gretel” a firm 4 “Meows” out of 5 with quite a few contented purrs for doing yet another excellent job telling a creepy, memorable story in a very artistic and polished fashion. I liked it a lot, and wished I’d managed to show this one for “Movie Nite” instead of “The Deserted Inn”……
The Korean disc is excellent in it’s production values, if a tad pricey, with perfect subtitles and plenty of extras to ooooh and ahhh over. It’s Region 3, NTSC and available now in a two disc special edition. The Singapore release is available too… but beware, I’ve read conflicting details on it at different sites that make it sound as if the english subs might or might not be included.
And, yes, naturally there’s a Trailer… silly!