MOVIE REVIEW: Greta will scare the crap out of you
Hungry and tired, Hansel and Gretel looked on at that delectable gingerbread cottage with ravenous eyes, unaware the old woman kindly offering shelter and comfort means to eat them.
Greta, the new thriller starring Chloe Grace Moretz and Isabelle Huppert, owes more to Hansel and Gretel than its name.
Directed and co-written by Neil Jordan, the movie functions like a dark fairytale, a story the Grimm brothers would've happily collected for their tome.
It's entertaining, anxiety inducing and a harsh warning about strangers who seem too good to be true. Especially if those strangers are older women living on their own.
Moretz plays a 20-something transplanted New Yorker named Frances. She finds a prim little handbag left on the subway and does the nice thing by returning it to the owner, whose address is conveniently inside.
Frances finds the owner, Greta (Huppert), down an alley in the city, living in a neat house that's warmly decorated - it's the modern-day witch's cottage.
Greta is gracious and thankful and invites Frances to stay for coffee and (not gingerbread) biscuits. Frances finds in the older woman a maternal connection she's been missing since the recent death of her mother.
They grow close quickly, but when Frances returns to Greta's home for dinner, she opens the wrong cupboard door and finds inside several copies of the same handbag she returned, all with the same contents inside.
It's as if Greta has been deliberately leaving them on subways and luring nice young women to be her friend.
Spooked, Frances leaves and cuts off contact. But Greta won't be cast aside so easily.
Greta is a simple story of a stalker and her prey, but it's chillingly effective - sometimes you don't need massive twists and complex plot points to be scared at the movies.
What it does well is recast those archetypal roles so that women are all the main characters. This includes Frances' roommate and best friend Erica (Maika Monroe), which not only gives audiences something different but adds a different dimension to that relationship between Frances and Greta.
Moretz plays the right balance between scared and defiant while Huppert will forever make you terrified of lonely, piano-playing women with French accents and a flippy bob.
Huppert has taken on so many roles where her character's morality is ambiguous or swathed in grey, so it's actually delightful to see her revel in a performance that's pure psychopathy.
Jordan's direction is spare and taut, really hitting those creepy notes, while Javier Navarrete's score is suitably spine-tingling.
If you're easily frightened by thrillers or horrors, Greta can be a stressful experience, but like what fairytales used to do for our ancestors, sometimes we need a little scare.
Greta is in cinemas now
Share your movies and TV obsessions: @wenleima