Gretel & Hansel
Directed by: Oz Perkins
Run time: 87 minutes
The Lowdown: For his third feature, Gretel & Hansel, Osgood (now just ‘Oz’) Perkins, the son of horror icon Anthony Perkins, finally breaks big in the way that most film pundits predicted back in 2015 when his first film, The Blackcoat’s Daughter, wowed critics with its unnerving atmosphere and subtle, creeping dread.
Gretel & Hansel is an entirely different creature, though still distinctly Perkins’. Building off of the classic fairy tale, Perkins and screenwriter Rob Hayes create a world that’s much more overt.
Gretel (Sophia Lillis) still has a brother named Hansel (Samuel Leakey). They still wind up in a forest. And they still encounter a beguiling witch (Alice Krige and Jessica De Gouw).
But Gretel & Hansel goes further, deeper, darker, turning Gretel into a true outlier, a young almost woman who is strong-willed and fiercely independent at a time when such attributes, in girls, were the stuff of fairy tales.
Gretel & Hansel also adds nuance to the witch, giving her a backstory and a purpose and a reason for capturing children, taking viewers inside her wonderfully detailed and fantastically realized environmental wonder of a home.
Perkins’ direction feels more assured here, which allows the story to progress at its own pace, like an ethereal enchantment at times and a white-knuckle spook-house ride at others. And his young actors, particularly Lillis, more than hold their own with Krige.
This is a visually dynamic meditation on gender and societal expectations that surprises and delights with each unexpected twist.
The Stuff You Care About:
Hot chicks – It’s not that kind of movie.
Nudity – No.
Gore – Minimal.
Drug use – No.
Bad Guys/Killers – Innocence, adolescence, oh, and the Witch
Buy/Rent – Buy it.
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Now on Video-on-Demand:
Cry Havoc (Midnight Releasing, 85 minutes, Unrated, Video-on-Demand): Here’s the thing, in case you don’t exist on a steady diet of B-and-C-grade direct-to-DVD movie releases, there’s an actor named Robert Bronzi who is the literal spitting-image of Charles Bronson.
And because he’s Bronson’s doppelganger, Bronzi has since 2017 found ample work with low-budget writer-director Rene Perez.
Never mind the fact that Bronzi can’t act, can’t emote, can’t even realistically scuffle or fire a weapon. The dude looks just like Bronson, so Perez keeps putting him front and center every time he makes a new genre movie.
Which happens a lot.
In 2017, it was From Hell to the Wild West, where Bronzi battled a masked killer slaughtering buxom women.
In 2018, it was Death Kiss, which was basically Death Wish, but you know, different, where Bronzi played a vigilante who arrives in a crime-plagued metropolis and starts killing people to protect his daughter and his grandchild.
In 2019, it was Once Upon a Time in Deadwood, which once again set Bronzi loose in the wild west, this time as a bounty hunter who has been poisoned and has mere days to locate a kidnapped woman.
And now, in 2020, it’s Cry Havoc which features Bronzi as an unnamed cop battling a masked serial killer that looks suspiciously like the bad guy he faced in From Hell to the Wild West.
The killer, codenamed ‘Havoc,’ is controlled by an uber-villain with a nifty secret lair nestled inside a mountain. The villain, who also doesn’t have a name, kidnaps buxom women that he lures to his lair using false pretenses and then films them being stalked and killed by Havoc.
In his uber-villain brain, he considers this to be the true representation of art because he’s capturing and recording primal emotions right up to the moment of death.
It’s worth mentioning that in the first 20 minutes of Cry Havoc, three buxom victims are topless on camera, for no real reason other than -- 'boobs!'
So, while Bronzi spends the first 70 minutes or so of the film wandering in the woods, having silly shootouts with the incompetent military henchman that protect the uber-villain, the villain is busy sweet-talking a local TV reporter from Iowa (!?!?), who may or may not become his next victim.
But, really, none of that matters because the entire reason Cry Havoc exists is because Perez thinks fans want nothing more than to see a guy who looks like Charles Bronson go mano-a-mano with a genetically engineered super-slasher.
But when Bronzi and Havoc finally do meet, it’s a complete letdown. It’s worse than Celebrity Boxing when that piece of shit show aired on Fox. It’s so sophomoric and poorly staged that you feel like you’re watching a flubbed outtake that most directors would leave on the editing room floor.
What’s most confounding is that this final fight is the entire reason Cry Havoc even exists. It’s like making Godzilla vs King Kong, and then leaving the climatic fight between the two gargantuan adversaries until the final five minutes of the movie, and then cutting away from the fight before there’s a decisive winner, leaving the audience feeling as if they’ve been the patsy in a particularly mean-spirited prank.
If you ask me, the spirit of Charles Bronson should be allowed to rest in peace. Robert Bronzi should either invest some money in acting lessons, or quietly retire into the Weird Hollywood history books. And Perez should consider finding another line of work.
Not to be Overlooked:
Fist of Fear, Touch of Death (The Film Detective, 82 minutes, R, Blu-Ray): There’s a renewed interest of late in the extraordinary Bruce Lee, which makes the timing of this 40th anniversary genre release from 1980 all the more fitting. One of the earliest example of mockumentary-style filmmaking, Fist of Fear, Touch of Death intersperses interviews about Lee with footage from his films and sequences designed to look like documentary film. Plus, it features both the legendary Fred Williamson and Ron Van Clief in prominent roles.
Fans of Bruceploitation-era genre cinema are not going to want to miss this limited release, which comes in a nice collectible blood-red jewel case. Follow this link to order your copy.