Snow White: A Tale Of Terror (1997)

DVD Cover (Universal Reissue)
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Overall Rating 61%
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Ranked #4,387
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Connections: Snow White

This movie is based somewhat more authentically on the Grimm Brothers' story of a young woman who is unliked by her stepmother. When young Lillian's mother dies during childbirth, her 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 ruffian gold miners. This movie takes place at the time of the Crusades, and depicts the attitudes of the wealthy and the peasant classes toward each other. --IMDb
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Review by Chad
Added: July 6, 2006
The Brothers Grimm are responsible for writing (or at least writing down) some of the most well-known stories in history; tonight's rendition of the classic Snow White tale is one such example. However, what some of you may not realize is that The Brothers Grimm did not create the sanitized, children-friendly tales that Disney has been making money off of for the last couple of decades; no sir, the original versions of these tales were dark, morbid, and about as far from family-oriented as one can get. Snow White: A Tale Of Terror is based on the original Brothers Grimm source material, and as such, it's not quite the same thing that you may recall from the animated versions.

The storyline is one part of the movie that I don't think that I need to cover in detail - honestly, who hasn't seen, read, or at least heard a summary of Snow White? However, it wouldn't be a review without some sort of synopsis, so here goes. Lilliana Hoffman (Monica Keena) is the daughter of a king named Friedrich (Sam Neill), a man who lost his wife (and Lilliana's mother) in a carriage accident while Lilliana was still in her womb. As her mother lay dying in the snow, Friedrich cut his daughter out of the mother's womb with a knife so that at least one of them would survive the accident. Have I mentioned yet that this definitely isn't the children-friendly version of the tale?

A few years pass, and Friedrich is ready to settle down with a new woman. Enter Claudia (Sigourney Weaver), a witch who manages to put on a good act of being a caring, loving wife. Lilliana isn't too happy with this woman "replacing" her mother, and as such, the two ladies have a strained (at best) relationship. When Claudia gets pregnant and is expecting a son, things perk up between the inhabitants of this castle... until, that is, Lilliana inadvertently causes Claudia to have a miscarriage. This pushes her over the edge, and she becomes determined to kill Lilliana in order to... well, you'll have to watch the movie to see why she's so dead-set on murdering this young lady. Suffice it to say, "Snow White" finds herself lost in the woods with only a group of "dwarves" to protect her... and these aren't the singing, prancing dwarves that you may remember from the animated version. These are filthy, disgusting men who contemplate raping our heroine before ransoming her off to her father. It continues down a path that you may recall from the Disney feature, but with a few things changed here and there (or reverted to the true story, depending on how you look at it). Gil Bellows and David Conrad also appear as Snow White's love interests... yes, that's plural.

Fans of Tim Burton's rendition of Sleepy Hollow will definitely enjoy this movie as well, as the two have a lot in common. Both take well-known fairy tales and transform them into brooding, Gothic horror films that manage to stay quite true to the source material. While the visuals and musical score found within Snow White never manage to live up to the visions that Burton brings us (really, what does?), fans of that style of film will definitely find something to enjoy here.

The acting abilities of this cast is one thing that I definitely want to give my thoughts on, as I've read a couple of reviews in which said abilities were really slammed by the writers. While nobody in this film deserved an award for their performances, almost everyone involved did better than average in their given role. The only exception to this was Sam Neill, who wasn't particularly bad, just... he really brought nothing to the movie other than a dab of emotion here and there. Monica Keena and Sigourney Weaver, however, truly shine in their respective roles as daughter and wicked stepmother. Not only does Keena have the perfect look for Snow White (well, in this film at least), but she also plays the character marvelously; while she's obviously the heroine and we're supposed to pity her because of her situation, she never comes across as the helpless victim that damned near every other film like this would have made her out to be. On the other end of the spectrum, we have Weaver playing the demented, wicked witch of a step-mother who just oozes evil during her on-screen time. The role may have been done better by other actresses in other films, but Weaver definitely shows that she's capable of playing more than an alien-fighting heroine with her excellent performance here. The two ladies have a great chemistry together, and watching the two interact with one another is great throughout the entire movie.

If the thought of watching a version of Snow White that was created by a guy who obviously took inspiration from the Gothic horror genre or (as previously mentioned) if you enjoyed Tim Burton's retelling of Sleepy Hollow, this would be a movie to pick up. I wasn't expecting a whole lot, considering the fact that I plucked this out of the bargain bin at my local Wal*Mart for under five bucks, but it turned out to be a whole lot better than I anticipated. I'd have never expected to see perceived cannibalism, attempted rape, and a handjob within a version of Snow White, but this movie definitely proved that expectation wrong. 7/10.
bluemeanie #1: bluemeanie - added July 11, 2006 at 1:49am
Without Sigourney Weaver, this film is worthless...plain and simple...4/10... and only that high for her performance.
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