Gretel & Hansel: Why Director Osgood Perkins Should Be a New Horror Superstar
GRETEL & HANSEL is many things: An adaptation that may be as dark and twisted as the original Grimm Brothers fairy tale; a big studio horror movie released in the dead of winter (because screaming keeps you warm); and the new movie starring Sophia Lillis, the 17-year-old scream queen who has proven her fundamentals by appearing as Beverly Marsh in the two IT blockbusters.
Most importantly, however, GRETEL & HANSEL is the latest work by Osgood "Oz" Perkins, a director who has quickly become one of the most exciting voices in genre filmmaking. Now he's set to make his mark on the mainstream with this, his first studio project. If you've never heard of Osgood Perkins, we're here to fill you in on why he might become your new favorite genre filmmaker, and why GRETEL & HANSEL should jump to the top of your "must see" list this January.
Horror Is in His Blood
[Image Credit: A24]
Osgood Perkins is the son of Anthony Perkins, whose performance immortalized Norman Bates in Alfred Hitchcock's horror masterpiece PSYCHO. Osgood originally wanted to be an actor like his father, and his first role was as the young Norman Bates in the underrated PSYCHO II.
For many years Osgood performed as an actor, appearing in small roles in the 2009 STAR TREK, directed by J.J. Abrams, and dark indie comedy SECRETARY. The actor started hitting his stride in 2013, when he co-authored the bleak noir COLD COMES THE NIGHT. From there, he would craft one of the most exciting careers in genre filmmaking.
The Blackcoat's Daughter
[Image Credit: A24]
Perkins' first work as a writer-director (but second to be released commercially) was THE BLACKCOAT'S DAUGHTER. It follows the lives of three young women, beginning with Katherine (Kiernan Shipka) and Rose (Lucy Boynton), who are stuck alone at their boarding school during a blustery winter break. They become increasingly convinced that a supernatural presence is stalking them. Joan (Emma Roberts), meanwhile, is traveling to the boarding school after breaking out of an asylum.
First off, THE BLACKCOAT'S DAUGHTER, released by cool indie distributor A24, is madly scary. It is claustrophobic and haunting. It's also surprisingly commercial, thanks perhaps to the producing efforts of STRANGERS director Bryan Bertino and a twist that is good enough to warrant multiple viewings. Unfortunately, the film had a longer-than-normal path to reach theatres after its successful festival run, and it took a long time for horror fans to realize it even existed. Do yourself a favor and seek out the movie. It'll rattle you in all the right ways.
I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House
[Image Credit: Netflix]
As a follow-up, Perkins chose material that was even scarier and more ethereal. I AM THE PRETTY THING THAT LIVES IN THE HOUSE continues the filmmaker's fascination with how the sins of the past can be visited upon those today. It follows Lily (Ruth Wilson), who gets a job as a caretaker for Iris (Paula Prentiss, who starred with Osgood's father in CATCH-22), an elderly horror writer suffering from dementia. Slowly, Lily becomes convinced that one of the woman's best-selling novels is actually a harrowing account of something that happened within the house, and is frequently visited by an otherworldly apparition (Lucy Boynton).
I AM THE PRETTY THING THAT LIVES IN THE HOUSE unfolds in a poetic, deeply disturbing way that often borders on the abstract. But its artistry never gets in the way of its ambitious scares. Add in a hilarious supporting turn by Bob Balaban and this is a new horror classic, as assured and ambitious as anything in mainstream horror.
Gretel & Hansel
[Image credit: Orion Pictures]
All of which brings us to GRETEL & HANSEL. While other movies have turned the characters into fairy tale superheroes, this movie is a deliberate attempt to return the story to its incredibly disturbing roots. The aesthetic showcased in the trailer is genuinely unsettling, and it'll be fun to watch Perkins engage with a pure period piece.
Plus it'll be fun seeing Lillis face off against another timeless supernatural evil. (Alice Krige, who most remember as the Borg Queen from STAR TREK: FIRST CONTACT, plays the witch.) Most excitingly, it'll be fun to see what Perkins does with a decent budget. If he's accomplished everything so far with a shoestring budget and tight shooting schedule, imagine what he's able to do given more time and money. We imagine it'll be something very, very scary.
GRETEL & HANSEL opens on January 31!
All images courtesy of Orion Pictures, except where indicated otherwise.