SNOW WHITE: A TALE OF TERROR(director: Michael Cohn; screenwriters: Deborah Serra/Thomas E. Szollosi/story by the Grimm Brothers; cinematographer: Mike Southon; editor: Ian Crafford; music: John Ottman; cast: Sigourney Weaver (Lady Claudia Hoffman), Monica Keena (Lilli Hoffman), Sam Neill (Lord Friedrich Hoffman), Gill Bellows (Will), David Conrad (Dr Peter Gutenberg), Miroslav Taborsky (Gustav), Brian Glover (Lars), Andrew Tiernan (Scar), Anthony Brophy (Rolf), Christopher Bauer (Conrad), Francis Cuka (Nannau), Taryn Davis (Young Lilli), Joanna Roth (Lilliana Hoffman), Dale Wyatt (Maidservant Elsa); Runtime: 100; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Tom Engelman; Polygram; 1997)
“It’s an unappealing dark adult version of the classic Grimm Brothers’ fairy tale of the Snow White story.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The studio dumped the film into an immediate video release without ever placing it in theaters, and as a result it has rarely been seen. It’s an unappealing dark adult version of the classic Grimm Brothers’ fairy tale of the Snow White story set in Germany’s Black Forest, around 1493 (during the Crusades and the bubonic plague). After this film bombed, Michael Cohn (“When the Bough Breaks”/”Interceptor”) was not given another chance to direct again. It’s written by Deborah Serra and Thomas E. Szollosi. Arguably, its best asset is that it creates an eerie forest scene, otherwise this is a disappointing film that its good production values can’t hide its B-film workings.
The opening scene has Lilliana Hoffman die in a suspicious coach crash in the woods just as she gives birth to a daughter, who is also named Lilli. When Lilli (Taryn Davis) is a young girl, her castle dwelling father Friedrich (Sam Neill) marries Lady Claudia (Sigourney Weaver). There’s an instinctual dislike between the ladies, not noticed by the ineffectual dad. The mysterious Claudia brings to the castle her deceased witch mother’s large dressing mirror that reflects her dark soul in which she talks to while conjuring magic. When Claudia gives birth to a stillborn son, she blames the teenager Lilli (Monica Keena) for the misfortune and sends her mute brother Gustave (Miroslav Taborsky) to kill her. But Lilli runs away from him into the dense woods, so he presents an animal’s heart for Claudia to eat in a stew prepared by the servants that leads her to think it’s Lilli’s heart. When Claudia discovers Lilli is still alive, she takes out her revenge on her brother. Discovering through her black arts that Lilli is being taken under the wings of seven disgruntled social outcasts in the forest (surly miners, changed from the original’s happy dwarfs), the wicked grandmother uses her sorcery to try and kill her stepdaughter. At home Claudia poisons the servants and makes her husband very ill so he’s unable to search for his daughter.
Monica Keena as a Snow White figure offers too weak a performance to be convincing as a foe of such a powerful sorceress and that her presence could inspire the powerful Claudia to take her so seriously that she goes into such a rage. Neill has an underwritten part. Only Weaver gives an “A” performance that effectively gives the slasher film some energy. Needless to say, this muddled adult fairy tale is bloodier than Disney’s Snow White for children and more grim than the Brothers Grimm book version, but is not better than either of these.
REVIEWED ON 3/15/2009 GRADE: C
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED DENNIS SCHWARTZ