Snow White: A Tale of Terror

Synopsis: If you thought Snow White was only a fairy tale, you’re about to discover the truth, but lock up your children first. The real tale of Snow White, is a tale of relentless terror and unimaginable horror. When young Lillian’s mother dies during childbirth, the father soon remarries the well-intentioned Lady Claudia. However, Claudia’s heart is ruled not by her husband, but by an evil mirror with the power to make Claudia Queen over all living things…until they are dead.

A failed attempt to murder young Lillian leaves her wandering lost in a deep dark forest where she comes across seven dwarfs-but wait, you think you know the rest of this story? Far from it. Handsome princes and dwarfs cannot always save the day. This movie will prove once and for all that blood is thicker than water, and evil, like an apple, comes around.
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Snow White: A Tale of Terror 6.0

For those who prefer their fairy tales grim comes ‘Snow White: A Tale of Terror’, a darker take on the story we’ve all known since childhood. It was made as a TV movie in the mid-’90s but released in cinemas in some international markets (hence the movie poster above).

I first attempted to watch this film on VHS tape about a dozen years ago. I used to work at a video store (surprise, surprise! winking0002 Free Emoticons   Winking) and we not only had access to all the videos that were still in store at closing time, but we also got screener copies of movies that were to be released in the near future. jumping0050 Free Emoticons   Jumping

As can be imagined, during those years, I tended to cram as many movies as I could fit into my schedule. There were two reasons for this: 1) to develop a knowledge base of our store’s inventory, so that I could better serve our customers, and 2) because my interest in cinema and music can become obsessive. Rather. winking0002 Free Emoticons   Winking

The problem is that I would sometimes attempt to watch movies after my late shift and, by the time I got home, I was so tired that I’d nod off midway. At the time, a buddy of mine would regularly drop by for these late shows, and he would frequently find himself stuck with a snoozing host. What patience and/or understanding some of my friends have. love0010 Free Emoticons   Love

Thus I saw the very beginning of ‘Snow White: A Tale of Terror’, but never the rest of it. I only remembered that it seemed appealing, but the only thing I really knew about it was what my buddy told me: that it was so-so – neither bad or good. Had he raved about it, I would have made a point to give it another chance. But a tepid appraisal kept it off my radar.

Until now. happy0024 Free Emoticons   Happy

I got the chance to pick up the DVD for a couple of bucks a few months ago, and I decided to take the plunge. The film had remained in the back of my mind all these years and, although I was in no rush to see it, I remained curious to know exactly what a horror version of Snow White might be like. It must be noted that I’ve long known that Brothers Grimm’s fairy tales were darker than the traditional adaptations but, having never read any, I have no sense of what that could entail. Still, I was intrigued.

*MAJOR spoiler alert*

Well, it turns out that ‘Snow White: A Tale of Terror’ was very different from the Disney version AND the classic story:

-Snow White is actually named Lilli Hoffman in this version and is never referred to as Snow White. This is because the writers took a more realistic approach to the material and named her after her father, Lord Frederick Hoffman. Consequently, the evil queen becomes her stepmother and is named Lady Claudia Hoffman.

-at no point does Lady Hoffman ask her mirror who the “fairest of them all” is. In this version, the mirror is either an expression of Lady Hoffman’s madness, or it is manipulating her; it’s not just a servant of the evil queen.

-consequently, this version of tale is not about vanity and jealousy, for good or bad. It’s about revenge: Lady Hoffman’s motivation is her madness-induced delusions that Lilli had something to do with her stillbirth and subsequent infertility. sad0038 Free Sad Emoticons

-Lady Hoffman isn’t evil from the get-go. She only turns to the dark side after she loses her son; before that, she seemed nice enough – if a bit stuffy. This completely alters the tone of the film, because there is no sense of foreboding from the onset – it gradually builds after a fairly simple beginning.

-instead of meeting seven dwarves, Lilli/Snow White encounters seven homeless brigands/miners. The charm and humour that one got in the Disney version is completely missing here, as she faces threats from testosterone-addled minds, secluded here in a cold shack in the wilderness. scared0014 Free Scared Emoticons

As well, ‘Snow White: A Tale of Terror’ is filled with a number of inexplicable scenes:

-Lady Hoffman has an extremely tight bond with her brother, and he does all her bidding without question. However, after being asked to murder Snow White, for reasons unknown he decides to betray his sister, leaving Lilli to wander about freely – which would no doubt come back to haunt him. So, not only does it make no sense that he betrays his sister, but the manner in which he goes about it is ridiculous at best. mad0071 Free Emoticons   Anger

-at some point in the film we discover that  Lady Hoffman has gotten rid of everyone in the castle – seemingly overnight, no less. Granted, this may have been done over lengths of time, but there is no way to tell: for all intents and purposes, a mere two or three days could have passed. In fact, like this, much of the film is slightly erratic in its presentation. confused

-after her “death”, Lilli gets buried in an ornate stained glass coffin by the homeless miners. How these men managed to buy or make this coffin is beyond me, seeing as they barely had food to eat. And why they would even bother for a total stranger is all the more mind-boggling. indifferent0004 Free Emoticons   Indifferent

-bizarrely, as “Snow White” is about to be lain in the ground, her beloved sees her eyes open up inexplicably, pulls her out of the coffin and gets her to breathe again out of sheer will alone, by shaking her (the Wiki entry claims that she coughs up the piece of apple lodged in her throat, but I somehow didn’t notice this). rolleye0015 Free Emoticons   Rolling Eyes

Weirdly, the whole death sequence is so short that it takes away part of the punch of the story as most of us know it: Snow White, thought dead, is kept in stasis by the seven dwarves – however, over time, a Prince finds and rescues her from her sleeping death. Here, by making Lilli’s death last a split second, all the tension of that ending sequence is squandered – not only does it cast its dramatic intensity to the four winds, it’s stripped it of the romantic allure it should have. mad0071 Free Emoticons   Anger

All this to say that Tom Szollosi and Deborah Serra, who were television writers, weren’t exactly at their best when they pieced the whole thing together. Mind you, based on their credits, it’s hardly surprising: ‘The A-Team’ and ‘Punky Brewster’ are hardly renowned for their sharp teleplays. tongue0024 Free Emoticons   Sticking Out Tongue

*MAJOR spoiler alert*

The key problem with this film is its unmistakable whiff of cheap veneer. In fact, if I didn’t know beforehand that this was made for TV I’d have justly wondered who had produced this cheapie – because it doesn’t give off the impression of an A-grade film. In fact, I’m actually kind of surprised that it was released theatrically in some markets; it just doesn’t seem worthy. Then again, ‘Red Riding Hood (2011)’ was a large-scale release, and it was much MUCH worse. sick0002 Free Sick Emoticons

At least they got a couple of recognizable actors for the leads (perhaps they spent all their budget there? winking0002 Free Emoticons   Winking). Unfortunately, the results aren’t as tremendous as one might initially suppose:

-Sam Neil, who was incredible in such fare as ‘Sirens’ and ‘The Final Conflict’ (playing none other than the spawn of Satan!), is bland bland bland in ‘Snow White’ A Tale of Terror’. To make matters worse, his wig was an eye-sore (as were most of the men’s wigs in this production mad0071 Free Emoticons   Anger). Perhaps this prevented him from feeling the part and, thus, neutered his performance? confused

-Sigouney Weaver is quite good as Lady Hoffman, actually. However, as what the original tale claims as being the most beautiful woman in the kingdom, I was left less than impressed. She is quite beautiful, don’t get me wrong (I’ve always quite liked Weaver actually winking0002 Free Emoticons   Winking), but I can’t fathom that there aren’t a few others that would lay claim to that title before she did. Admittedly, this part of the original story isn’t a focus of the telefilm, but it’s nonetheless difficult to forget; it nagged at me throughout.

The producers did get a great score from John Ottman, however. It was one of his first, and there’s a reason why he’s become a name in the industry. Here he offers a soundtrack that belies the film’s low-budget pedigree. Would I purchase it on CD? Perhaps. It was by far the high point of this film. happy0027 Free Emoticons   Happy

While ‘Snow White: A Tale of Terror’ doesn’t lack in the twists and turns department, it surprisingly wasn’t all that engaging. By the end, I was actually relieved that it was finally over, as I had been looking forward to it for some time. It’s not a terrible film, per se, but it could have been so much more. It could have had better performances, a more coherent script and a whole lot more terror. As it stands, it’s more a blueprint of what could have been than a fully realized vision. indifferent0004 Free Emoticons   Indifferent

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