"The Weekend Rent" offers quick-hit suggestions of what to watch at home to get psyched for new releases in theaters, on Fridays.
A fairy tale gets an R-rated makeover with this weekend's widest new release in theaters, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters. In this twist on the classic story, Hansel and Gretel (Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton) are bounty hunters who track and kill witches all over the world. Expect lots of fantasy violence and R-rated action—in other words, this fairy tale isn't a children's bedtime story.
Of course, most fairy tales are pretty dark to begin with, so it's only natural that a few filmmakers have picked up on this and adapted the stories for adults. One under-seen gem is Snow White: A Tale of Terror, which more closely follows the Grimm Brothers' story than the Disney animated version. In this 1997 film, Snow White encounters gold miners in the woods that are neither cute nor dwarves. Sigourney Weaver plays Lilli's youth-obsessed wicked stepmother who does indeed talk to a magic mirror, but the dark imagery shown in this R-rated movie isn't for wee ones' eyes.
Little Red Riding Hood gets a gritty, urban update in Freeway, starring Reese Witherspoon as delinquent teen runaway Vanessa Lutz. After Vanessa's parents are arrested and the teenager is faced with foster care, Vanessa starts hitchhiking up the coast to get to her grandmother's house. Along the way she encounters a big bad wolf in disguise—Kiefer Sutherland as a serial killer who has been preying on young runaways. Suffice it to say, he severely underestimates our lethal urban princess who has dealt with worse monsters on a daily basis.
Matt Damon and the late Heath Ledger play Wilhelm and Jakob Grimm in 2005's The Brothers Grimm, directed by Terry Gilliam. Here the brothers are depicted as traveling con artists in French-occupied Germany during the early 19th century. The shyster siblings perform a lot of bogus exorcisms until they are faced with an actual fairy tale curse, which requires a real display of courage.
The same year that The Brothers Grimm came out in theaters, Gilliam also directed the bizarre fantasy thriller Tideland. Although this movie is based on a modern novel and not some centuries-old fairy tale, its fantastical story about an abandoned little girl who creates a dark fantasy life with the help of severed Barbie heads that she wears on her fingers is in the Grimm tradition—something with which Gilliam is obviously familiar. The poor child relies on her doll heads for friendship and they help her from feeling lonely and afraid as she tries to survive in a rundown farmhouse by herself.
One of the very best fairy tale movies adapted for adult audiences is Neil Jordan's 1984 fantasy horror film The Company of Wolves, which offers yet another twist on the Red Riding Hood story. The film takes place within the dreams of Rosaleen (Sarah Patterson), who imagines her whole family lives in fairy tale forest. Her grandmother (Angela Lansbury) knits her a bright red shawl and constantly warns her about men who are "hairy on the inside." The movie, of course, is a metaphor for a young woman's sexual awakening, and the panic associated with that manifests itself in Rosaleen's dark dreams about werewolves trying to seduce her.
More recently, both Little Red Riding Hood and Snow White have grown up fast on-screen. Amanda Seyfried played the titular role in Twilight director Catherine Hardwicke's Red Riding Hood, a film that featured some bloody werewolf violence and a whole town doing a primal pagan dance around a fire to the tune of Fever Ray. In Snow White and the Hunstman, Kristen Stewart played a warrior-woman version of Snow White who faces off against a truly evil ice queen, played by a scenery-chewing Charlize Theron. Both films eccentuate and build upon the darkest elements of the fairy tales for more mature audiences.
All of the films listed above are available on DVD and/or Blu-ray as well as on various VOD services. What's your favorite fairy tale that got an adult makeover?