8 Dark Adaptations of Classic Fairy Tales You’ve Never Heard Of

8 Dark Adaptations of Classic Fairy Tales You’ve Never Heard Of

Fairy tales and filmmaking have gone hand and hand for a century, but not all stay true to the whimsical, child-friendly source material.

In July of 2021, A24 and director David Lowery unleashed The Green Knight to box office success and universal acclaim. A retelling of the poetic fairy tale “Sir Gawain and The Green Knight,” the story remains faithful to the source material but amps up the graphic violence, thematic elements, and darkness.

Though the movie got a lot of press, not every dark adaptation of a fairy tale has been met with the same amount of attention. In fact, several hidden gems have forever been ignored when discussing adaptations of the tales that are seemingly meant to either entertain or terrify children.

8. Sleeping Beauty (2011)

Sleeping Beauty (2011)

Out of all these movies, Sleeping Beauty has the least to do with its source, but it bears an uncomfortable resemblance to it nonetheless. The story of a woman who is paid to sleep with wealthy individuals, Sleeping Beauty’s subject matter leaves the viewer with a bad taste in their mouth, to say the least, which is something that can also be said of the original tale.

Long before this film, as well as Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, there was Sun, Moon, and Talia by Giambattista Basile, the story that inspired the tale, albeit with a far darker twist that ties it to Julia Leigh’s uncompromising film. Either way, the film is not for everyone, and viewers interested in watching it should be aware of that.

7. Wendy (2020)

Wendy (2020)

Released just before The COVID-19 Pandemic that held the world in its grip, Wendy takes a classic story and gives it a grittier, notably more southern twist. Based loosely on J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, Wendy follows a child named Wendy, who boards a mysterious train with a group of children in order to travel to a much different Neverland than fans of the stories will expect.

Benh Zeitlin’s movie takes the classic tales of Peter Pan and re-imagines them, thrusting the story into a far more realistic world. While there are no pixies or mermaids, the story still has a strange, almost magical feel to it nonetheless.

6. The Company Of Wolves (1984)

The Company Of Wolves (1984)

Those who love werewolf transformations in movies will absolutely be enraptured with 1984’s The Company of Wolves. Though Neil Jordan’s movie is based on the story of the same name by Angela Carter, it also derives inspiration from the tale of Red Riding Hood, taking an already creepy story and adding werewolves to it.

Using a Red Riding Hood-style tale as the framework of a pseudo-anthology, the movie deals with themes like the loss of innocence in ways that are potent and powerful. The Company of Wolves is a lavish, gothic affair that received very mixed responses from critics but has developed a cult following that persists to this day.

5. Snow White: A Tale Of Terror (1997)

Monica Keena and Sigourney Weaver as Lilli and Claudia in Snow White: A Tale of Terror.

Though the movie is nowhere near as creepy as the fairy tale it’s based on, Snow White: A Tale of Terror takes the classic tale and re-imagines it as a mature fantasy horror film. Premiering on Showtime back in the late 90s, Michael Cohn’s movie focuses more on the evil queen Claudia, with the title character mostly being developed in the B-plot.

Played by Ellen Ripley herself, Sigourney Weaver delivers an excellent performance as the story’s main antagonist who is given a unique, terrifying backstory. A Tale of Terror isn’t perfect, but it is a breath of fresh air when placed next to the typical, cutesy adaptations of Snow White.

4. Der Golem (1915)

Troedler finds The Golem.

A number of silent horror films have gained a degree of fame, including the movie The Golem: How He Came into the World. However, few know that the movie was the final entry of a trilogy; as per Little White Lies, the original two movies, like many silent films, have become lost to time, including the first film Der Golem.

Based on a Jewish folktale, the movie followed an antique dealer who discovers a golem created by a Rabbi to defend his people. Things so go awry, and The Golem begins to murder people. Though the movie has been lost, its story is fascinating and may cause people to understand and respect the art of film preservation.

3. Beauty And The Beast (1978)

A faceless woman on the poster of 1978's Beauty and The Beast.

While the Disney film differed from it, 1978’s Beauty and The Beast feels more in line with the fairy tale. Made in Czechoslovakia, the movie follows the story almost to the letter, making minor changes to make it clear that this movie is a horror story.

Unlike most versions of The Beast, who is often portrayed as a giant, boar-Esque monster, Juraj Herz portrays him as a birdlike creature is who viscerally grotesque. Fascinating, gripping, and engaging to the very end, 1978’s Beauty and The Beast may not have the musical numbers, but it does have the tale’s spirit.

2. Alice (1988)

Kristýna Kohoutová as Alice in 1988's Alice.

Often, retellings of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland play up the fantastical nature of the story, but director Jan Svankmajer had other ideas. The experimental filmmaker brought forth a stripped-down, uncompromising take on the Lewis Carroll classic in the form of 1988’s Alice.

Alice is nightmarish without having to resort to violence or overdone character designs, instead the use of seemingly common items to create the characters makes the movie unnerving. There’s a firm groundedness to the film that sets it apart from other adaptations but may explain why it’s been forgotten.

1. Krysar (1986)

The Pied Piper whistles a tune in Krysar,.

The Pied Piper of Hamelin hasn’t had the same luck as many fairy tales in regards to adaptations, which may explain why the best movie based on it, 1986’s Krysar, isn’t very well known. Whereas most fairy tale movies are animated, director Jiri Barta offers up a dark, twisted stop-motion style that emphasizes its darker take on the story.

Though it mostly follows the same plot, the film includes murder, implied rape, and body horror that would make David Cronenberg proud. Its style might not sit well with some and its added content will turn people off, but Krysar is still a unique take on a classic fairy tale.

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