‘Gretel & Hansel’: Why Isn’t There a Gingerbread House in the Movie?

Gretel & Hansel is a horror retelling of one of the most famous fairy tales ever. Although it features some arresting, original moments, it generally stays faithful to the broad strokes of the Brothers Grimm story. Despite that, Gretel & Hansel is missing a major element of the Grimms’ story: the gingerbread house. Director Oz Perkins explains his intent behind the unique house depicted in the film.

An illustration of Hansel and Gretel | Bettmann

Why no gingerbread house?

In an interview with Bloody Disgusting, Perkins said he wanted his horror film to blend the expected and the unexpected. “For me it’s like this. It’s a combination of wanting to be vanguard or progressive or visionary, or whatever the word that sounds the least full of sh*t is. Like wanting to be in some way exemplary, and so to try to bring things into a fresh, chic context is in one hand.”

His desire to be fresh precluded him from portraying the gingerbread house from the original tale. “There are certain expectational moments for the audience that I wanted to make sure, when we got to them, it wasn’t ‘Oh god, it’s a house made out of food… Like, I wanted to make sure that at those hinges we were tracking and cutting a new path towards something fresher.”

He elaborated “So yes, there was never the impulse to make the place out of food…To be honest with you, I wouldn’t have known how to make that elegant. I would haven’t known how to make that even appealing, in a way. It’s just all of a sudden, that aspect seems like it didn’t fit what we were doing.”

There’s still something special about the house in ‘Gretel & Hansel’

A poster for Gretel & Hansel

Although the witch’s house in Gretel & Hansel isn’t made of sweets, it was still designed to have an otherworldly quality. The house’s exterior is dark and covered in religious symbols. It looks smaller on the outside than it is on the inside. Perkins explained “Yeah, it’s definitely one of those structural anomalies, like so many things should be in fantasy or fairy tale or even horror.”

He likened the house to “Mark Danielewski’s novel House of Leaves…where there’s this quality of spaces being…warped by our perception, which I think is something that people feel in their lives when they go visit someplace where they’d been only as a child, and…they say, ‘Wow, I thought this place was huge when I was here. It’s tiny!’”

How ‘Super Mario’ inspired the movie

Beyond ignoring the famous “Hansel and Gretel” gingerbread house, the film features other aesthetic oddities, like cutesy, cartoonish mushrooms. Bloody Disgusting reports they were inspired by Super Mario Bros. That’s as far from the Grimms as you can get.

The start screen of Super Mario Run | Chesnot/Getty Images

Perkins had some high praise for Super Mario Bros. when he explained his usage of its imagery. “I feel like there are certain things that are really pleasantly iconic and that can never be defeated. Certain things, certain design elements, certain ways of looking at things or ways of hearing things become indelible, and I feel like – as silly as it might sound – a lot of the initial Mario Bros. aesthetic is very indelible.”

Gretel & Hansel is an aesthetically eclectic movie. It’s director decided not to use a gingerbread house because it wouldn’t look elegant. However, the film features Super Mario Bros.-esque mushrooms. Love or hate the movie, its aesthetic is original.

Also see: ‘Star Wars’: The Secret Symbolism in ‘The Rise of Skywalker’