Saturday, October 3, 2009

Hansel & Gretel (Korea 2007)

One of the best examples of wasted opportunity, Hansel & Gretel (헨젤과 그레텔) is by and large one of the biggest cinematic disappointments for me in recent memory. What could have been, never was and the end result is a flat-out boring film. Shame really.

Eun-soo (Cheon Jeong-myeong) is on his way to visit his mother when he takes his eyes off the road and ends up wrecking his car into a ditch. When he awakes, he finds himself wandering lost into a forest where no one is around and the sun is starting to go down. Out of nowhere a young girl, Yeong-hee (Sim Eun-keyong), comes out of the darkness and greets him warmly, inviting the injured Eun-soo to her home. Once at the home, Eun-soo meets the Yeong-hee's parents and two siblings, Man-bok (Eun Won-jae) and Jeong-soon (Jin Ji-hee). The family lives in an incredibly charming home that appears to be straight out of a fairy tale. However, Eun-soo starts to become skeptical about his new hosts after the parents nervously comment about how they have no phone service for him a call. Eun-soo stays the night and takes notice of other strange things around the house, such as the fact that they only eat sweets and that the television seems to be working without even being plugged in. He tries to leave the home but the family keeps making excuses as to why he shouldn't, all the while the parents act as if they're afraid of their children and what they may do. The children begin to take a liking to Eun-soo after their parents go missing and ask for him to stay and take care of them. Eun-soo resists and continues his snoop around the premises and struggles to escape. He eventually discovers that every adult that has ever come into this home has met a terrible fate and he's afraid that he'll be next. These innocent-looking children aren't what they appear to be and Eun-soo fights to keep them happy while working to discover the secret to this home and these children.

So what you can gather from my quick synopsis is that the house and the children are big red flags in Eun-soo's life, however, unlike every other site, I refuse to tell you exactly what is going on with these kids in this house. That's the big secret of the movie and I refuse to ruin that for you. Suffice to say, it's a pretty cool premise once you find out what it is. Let me get this out of the way, Hansel & Gretel is one of the most visually-stunning Korean movies I've seen in a long time. Director/actor Park Hee-soon (who also plays the horrible Deacon in the film) does a great job in creating this fantastical looking environment within the home, it's grounds and the style of the children. It truly does look like something out of a children's book. I do enjoy the fact that they take a bright and colorful world and spin it in a very dark direction as it makes for an engaging contrast. However, the problem is with the pacing of the story. This is a big problem because the movie is around the 2 hour mark and to be honest, not a lot happens and when it does it's too few and far between. The film follow Eun-soo on a daily basis, keeping the viewer informed with on-screen text (day 1, day 2, etc.), and at times it feels like you've been watching the movie for days. I guess the biggest problem for me was that I was under the impression this was an actual horror/dark remake of the traditional Hansel & Gretel story, so if you thought that, get the idea out of your head because it simply borrows ideas here and there. The story they come up with is alright and the villains (Park Lydia and Park Hee-soon) are truly evil and are also the most engaging characters in the movie. On another note, I typically hate child actors in television, movies, etc., but the three siblings in this film are actually quite good and were very convincing in their roles. However, Eun-soo's character annoyed the crap out of me. There was nothing remotely endearing about his character and I didn't find myself rooting for him to get out of that house. Not a good thing if you're the protagonist of the film. I know a lot of people enjoyed this movie, got high marks and was generally highly-regarded in Korea, but my God I simply don't see it.

Maybe my expectations were shot because they were so unrealistic, but expectations aside, Hansel & Gretel was still a bore. Two thumbs up for the look of the film, which I guess is only worth something if you watch it on mute. (Lee)

Grade: D-

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