Thursday, September 10, 2009

Fearing Hansel

Pil-Sung Yim's retelling of the classic fairytale is a great example of bad writing ruining lofty ambitions. It has excellent production values and solid performances. It just goes nowhere.

At the forty-five minute point, it starts circling -- literally! The titular children beg anybody who visits their house not to leave. They keep begging. They never stop begging. That's the story.

It's a half hour idea stretched to breaking point.

"Easily surpasses both Pan's Labyrinth and The Orphanage," raves imdb reviewer ebossert.

You've got to be kidding.

Boy, do I love James Foley's Fear ('96). I mention it because it has exactly nothing in common with Hansel and Gretel.

I just watched it for the fifth or six time and stayed with every minute of it.

Why? The script, the performances, James Foley's direction, the eroticism, and the sensational Carter Burwell score.

The plot is nothing original, but writer Cameron Crowe (yes, THAT Cameron Crowe) deftly introduces a complex cast of characters and ratchets up the drama and suspense very quickly.

There is not a wasted moment in the film.

Mark Wahlberg's performance is to Fear what James Spader's performance is to The New Kids (aka Striking Back). Witherspoon, who is very young (and sexy) in this, had just come off her striking performance in Mathew Bright's brilliant Freeway...

... and totally nails her character's naive sexual curiosity.

William Petersen, who plays Reese's concerned, smart father, is never less than 100% authentic. I love the scene where Petersen discreetly checks out the very hot Alyssa Milano's ass, but notices Wahlberg doing the same thing and noticing him doing it. A very awkward, real moment follows.

James Foley, whose credits include At Close Range, Glengarry Glen Ross, Reckless, and Confidence, does a superb job here with familiar subject matter.

And finally, Carter Burwell's score. It's loaded with dread, but it makes the danger exciting and enticing, and gives the film enormous emotional impact. He's one of America's greatest film composers. His minimalist score for Before The Devil Knows You're Dead is a masterpiece.

Fear got the clumsy writing of Hansel and Gretel out of my system. I guess it's more than just a movie.


  1. Freeway is fan-fucking-tastic. I've never even heard of this Hansel and Gretel movie, BUT there's a really cool Hansel and Gretel adaptation called Criminal Lovers. Have you seen that one? It's not great but it has some cool visuals, it's super violent, and kinda disturbing at times.

  2. Aaron -- yes, Freeway is fantastic.

    I love Ozon's Criminal Lovers (I assume that's what you're referring to). It's a big favorite of mine.

    Shame about the Freeway sequel.