Hansel And Gretel (tbc)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner14/01/2009

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 116 mins

Inventive, visually stunning and impressively directed Korean horror fantasy, though it's let down by a lacklustre central performance and a plot that's frequently confusing.

What's it all about?
Directed by Yim Phil-sung (a friend and contemporary of The Host's Boon Jong-ho), Hansel and Gretel stars Chun Jeong-myeoung as Lee Eun-soo, a young man who crashes his car while on the phone to his pregnant girlfriend. Staggering out of the crash and collapsing, he awakes to find a mysterious girl (Shim Eun-kyung as Young-hee), clad in a red cape, who leads him to a surreal-looking cottage (called The House of Happy Children) in the middle of the forest.

Inside the cottage, Eun-soo is introduced to Young-hee's 13-year-old older brother Man-bok (Eun Won-jae), her little sister Jung-soon (Jin Ji-hee) and their doting parents. However, the next day, the parents mysteriously disappear, leaving a note asking Eun-soo to look after the children.

The Good
The three children are terrific, giving performances that are simultaneously creepy, funny, disturbing and heartbreaking. The production design is excellent too, particularly in the detail of the house, which is filled with childhood toys, like a memory box of keepsakes.

Yim Phil-sung has a strong eye for memorable images (the woman trapped in the vines is especially creepy) and the film strongly echoes both surreal fairy tales and expressionistic horror films. There's also a subtle, Peter Pan-style message about the importance of growing up.

The Bad
The main problem with the film is a rather lacklustre lead performance by Chun Jeong-myeoung, with the result that we don't really care about Lee Eun-soo (plus, we strongly suspect, rightly or wrongly, that he never survived the crash in the first place). Similarly, the plot gets a little chaotic when other adults show up and eventually becomes cluttered and confusing.

Worth seeing?
In short, Hansel and Gretel is something of a mixed bag, though it's definitely worth seeing for Yim Phil-sung's striking visual style and the performances of the three children.

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Hansel And Gretel (tbc)
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Content updated: 20/10/2017 05:55

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