Original Release Date: August 24, 1997
Runtime: 100 minutes
Madness. What would it take to slip into the inky void of insanity?
The answer to that question is different for everybody and yet in most cases, the word “loss” comes to mind. Even though the loss of, say, 20,000 words on a work-in-progress novel might send me into a loony-bin-esque fit of (justified but) temporary insanity, usually the kind of loss I’m talking about here is the loss of a person, someone important in one’s life. The kind of emotional connection of a deep bond that is severed by death. The most final of all “good byes.”
Lady Claudia, a new wife to a family locked in mourning, becomes a second fiddle to the ghost of her predecessor, Lilliana Hoffman. The first Lady Hoffman might be gone, but her memory lingers because her young daughter, Lilli, cannot move on from a mother she’s never known. Caught in an uncomfortable struggle of will with a stubborn teenager, Lady Claudia is content to let things slide until the night a great tragedy shatters her world and mind forever. She is never the same again and as such, there is no more time for patience after that. She is done trying to build a bond. Now, she aims to break them. All of them.
My personal thoughts are that this movie probably should have been called Snow White: A Dark Tale. While it does have troubling content, it does not exactly inspire terror. I didn’t think there were many actual “scary” moments within it to inspire the given title, but it is much darker than the cartoon version. It’s not a children’s movie, which may have been the goal of the title to portray to the audience. Fairy tales did not always have the Disney “stamp of approval” that they do today – once upon a time, they were made for adult readers, who would then read the stories to children. They were a great deal darker- much scarier in content. When the Brothers Grimm collected and distributed their German-translated tales, it’s rumored that they had to alter several of the scarier stories to make them more child-friendly as years went by, due to complaints that they weren’t soft enough.
Snow White: A Tale of Terror dials back to a darker age where handsome young men who wooed ladies of court were not always the most kind-hearted of men to those below their station. The film ekes out of the swamp a muddy vision of how loss and heartbreak can change even the best of intentions.
Let’s takes a look at how it stacks up:
G: General Entertainment – Sigourney Weaver and Sam Neill: what a combination. I absolutely loved Weaver’s portrayal of Lady Claudia; the range of emotion she shows on-screen is incredible. Even from the beginning, everything from those long contemplative looks to the streak of madness that later overtakes her is spectacular. She won an Emmy for the role, even though it was a made-for-TV production. Neill has been a favorite of mine from Merlin to Event Horizon. He has a quiet, calculating way of carrying himself that I’ve always enjoyed watching on screen. While Lord Hoffman’s character is a bit of a stick-in-the-mud in this film, I can’t picture anyone else playing his character. It is a great pairing of actors, and I was very pleased with the entire cast. 9/10
A: Actuality – Fairy tales aren’t real; yet, there is a lot to be said for their ability to reflect real-life situations. Granted, there is a lot of “hocus pocus” within the film, but if you’ve ever known grief in your life, the movie also portrays fairly accurately the twist of the heart when horrible and uncontrollable events enter our lives. 6/10
S: Story – Snow White: A Tale of Terror has several really good things going for it. Not only does it parallel but also works to differ slightly from the cartoon version we all know – it spins a much more humanizing tale. Not all nobility are nice just because they are depicted as such in cartoons for children. History will remember much better the times more like the ones we see here in the movie. I really enjoyed it, and it really did tremendous things with the limited budget that it had to work with. Very well done. 8/10
P: Presentation – The film definitely packs a punch. From the beautiful scenes to the spectacular assortment of periodic clothing, it really is quite gorgeous. There are several dresses that Weaver wears that are simply stunning. I have absolutely nothing to fault on the overall presentation of the film. The makeup, the effects, the evil Mirror – it’s all done very well. I would have loved to see what they could have done with a bigger budget and scarier content, but it is a vision all its own. No complaints from me. 10/10
TOTAL SCORE: 8.25/10
Everyone is different, and while there may have been things about the film that you’d like to see completely changed, I enjoyed it and would definitely watch it again. If you get a chance, check it out and see what you think. And remember the word “dark,” not “terror.”
Until next time.