Snow White: A Tale Of Terror Review

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Once upon a time there was a movie that nobody liked, and it was left to sit on a shelf until one day it was rescued by a kindly executive. Such is the case with this well-worth-investigating Gothic yarn.

Beginning with a thundering carriage wreck worthy of the most bombastic blockbuster, wealthy Lord Frederick Hoffman (Neill) narrowly eludes savage laser-eyed lupines with newborn daughter Lilli intact, leaving his wife bleeding into the snow. Years later, he marries haughty beauty Claudia (Weaver), whose life is made a misery by the resentful Lilli (Keena) and who's upstaged by her stepdaughter at a ball, provoking a sudden miscarriage. At this point, Claudia goes barmy and starts consulting her own reflection in a spooky vanity-mirror.

This is apparently the Snow White fable ala Brothers Grimm - i.e. before Christian Andersen got his Hans on it. So no rhyming "mirror, mirror" incantation, not one cheery bar of "Hi Ho", and no dwarves. There is a poisoned apple, though - and with it a swathe of sexual imagery (although it's doubtful Claudia giving Hoffman a hand-job crops up in the original text) - and much mirror-madness mayhem. Cloaked thickly with an oppressive, unsettling atmosphere, the film succeeds by drawing deep, fearful uncertainty from its ambiguity.

Weaver is terrific as the stepmum soaked in black psychosis; Keena perfect as the alluring maiden on the verge of womanhood. Impressive Czech locations and an eerie, desolate castle work well, and the story is flighted in almost dream-like fashion to a shocking finale, from which there are only tarnished happy ever afters.