Anyone who loves a good fairytale knows the spooky tale of Hansel and Gretel has been highly sanitized from its gruesome beginnings over the last few years, but director Oz Perkins's Gretel & Hansel is a delightfully haunting return to the story's origins. In an exclusive clip from behind the scenes of the upcoming horror film, Perkins and star Sophia Lillis reveal how a shift in the narrative crafted a new way to portray the classic tale, and why viewers will be kept on the edge of their seats.
"When I first read this script, I could definitely see that this would be a special take on this story," Lillis says in the clip. Like in the original Brothers Grimm fairy tale, Lillis plays Gretel, who leads her younger brother (Samuel Leakey) into the woods in search of food and work when the pair become desperate. Though retellings of the story generally tend to focus on the pair as a unit, Gretel & Hansel is notable for focusing on its female protagonist, who we learn is more than just an older sister attempting to protect her brother.
"What I wanted to do with Gretel is I wanted to give her a sophisticated point of view about the fact that the world is a really difficult place," Perkins explains. Lillis added that after the siblings are sent away by their mother to fend for themselves, Gretel unexpectedly finds solace in a witch named Holda (Alic Krige) that the siblings come across in the woods, who teaches the younger woman about "the magic within her."
Much like the source material, Gretel and Hansel are orphans who only have one another, and Lillis's Gretel is her brother's sole caretaker. Regardless of any yearnings for independence, her duty to her younger sibling is what drives the story. "Caring for Hansel has made Gretel benevolent and selfless," Perkins further explains in the film's production notes. "But there's a quality of her being curious about her own power and her own self. Invariably there's a dark component to that."
It's safe to say that however Gretel & Hansel ends, the journey to the conclusion will be an ominous one. "No one is what they seem to be," Lillis says, a bit gleefully we might add. "It really puts you on edge."
Check out the behind-the-scenes clip above to hear more about what Lillis and Perkins have to say about their dark reimagining of the classic fairy tale, then steel yourself to check out Gretel & Hansel when it arrives in theatres on Jan. 31.