Snow White: A Tale of Terror

Snow White: A Tale of Terror, also known as Snow White in the Black Forest,[1] is a 1997 American horror film based on the fairy tale "Snow White". It was directed by Michael Cohn and stars Sigourney Weaver, Sam Neill and Monica Keena. The original music score was composed by John Ottman. The film was marketed with the tagline "The fairy tale is over".

Snow White: A Tale of Terror
DVD cover for Snow White: A Tale of Terror
Based onSnow White recorded by the Brothers Grimm
Screenplay byTom Szollosi
Deborah Serra
Directed byMichael Cohn
Theme music composerJohn Ottman
Country of originUnited States
Original language(s)English
Producer(s)Tom Engelman
CinematographyMike Southon
Editor(s)Ian Crafford
Running time100 minutes
Production company(s)PolyGram Filmed Entertainment
Interscope Communications
Budget$26 million
Original networkShowtime
Original release
  • July 18, 1997 (1997-07-18) (Greece)
  • August 24, 1997 (1997-08-24) (United States)


Lilliana Hoffman dies in a carriage accident in the woods, caused by wolves that attack both the horses and the coachman. Her husband Frederick, at his dying wife's urging, reluctantly performs a caesarean section to save their unborn daughter. Years later, the young Lilli Hoffman, named after her dead mother, plays mischievously on the grounds of the Hoffman estate. Frederick remarries a noble woman named Lady Claudia. Despite Claudia's kindness to her, Lilli is jealous and resentful towards her new stepmother. On the Hoffmans' wedding night, Lilli runs from her nursemaid and hides under Claudia's bed. However the nursemaid is mysteriously killed by an unseen force when she looks into Claudia's mirror.

Years later, Lilli grows into a beautiful young woman. On the night of a ball, Claudia now pregnant with Lilli's half brother, gives her a gown to wear at the ball that belonged to her as a child. Lilli rebuffs the gift and rebels by wearing one of her own mother's gowns to the ball. Her father is startled, then pleased at the evocation of her mother. As the two dance, a hurt and jealous Claudia goes into an early labor and delivers a stillborn boy. Doctor Gutenberg informs Frederick that although Claudia is perfectly healthy she can never have another child. Distraught, she is soon corrupted by the power of the mirror.

The next morning, a remorseful and sympathetic Lilli attempts to make peace with Claudia who appears to forgive her. Dr Gutenberg proposes to Lilli which she happily accepts and he goes to ask for her father's consent. While waiting for him, she is confronted by Claudia's brother, Gustav who tries to kill her as per Claudia's orders but she escapes deep into the woods. Gustav then resorts to killing a boar instead and presents its heart to Claudia, who orders him to place the rest of the remains in the stew pot, intended for her and Frederick's dinner. However, when she coughs up the boar's blood she realises that Gustav has failed her. Enraged at his betrayal, she bewitches him causing him to have horrific hallucinations and he commits suicide. In the meantime, Lilli is found by seven rough, combative miners, led by Will, who grudgingly take her under their wing. Claudia makes another attempt on Lilli's life by using witchcraft to crush her in the mines but she is rescued by Will. Doctor Gutenberg returns to the castle to find it almost abandoned save for Claudia who in an attempt to get rid of him, seduces and pleads with him to find Lilli.

Claudia again uses witchcraft to lure Lilli to her death by summoning a gale to knock down the trees and crush her to death. Lilli is almost crushed when she tries to save Lars, but she is pulled to safety by Will. One of the miners spots a raven that had been following them and kills it after realizing it was bewitched. Under the mirror's influence, Claudia decides to deal with Lilli later and decides to resurrect her dead son by stealing Frederick's seed and bathing the child in his blood. She then makes her way to his bedchamber and has sex with him. In the forest, while the four remaining miners mourn their losses, Lilli notices Will's scars, inflicted by Crusaders. Having fallen in love, the two share a kiss. Claudia disguises herself as an old woman and turns her brother's eviscerated heart into a poisoned apple. Transported to Lilli's refuge, she deceives her into accepting the apple, which puts her into a deathlike state. Will finds Lilli seemingly dead on the ground from a bite of the apple. Dr. Gutenberg eventually finds them and sadly pronounces her dead. The miners place her in a glass coffin and prepare to bury her. Will notices that her eyes have opened and pulls Lilli's body from the coffin, and shakes her as he commands her to breathe, dislodging the piece of apple that had been stuck in her throat. In the castle, Claudia takes Frederick to the chapel, wherein the castle staff appear mindlessly worshipping, ties him to a crucifix and suspends it upside down and prepares to exsanguinate him in a crude Satanic ritual.

Gutenberg takes Lilli back to the castle to stop Claudia and rescue Frederick, followed by Will. On arriving, they discover that the entire household has been placed under a spell, locking them in a trance like state. They find a weak and delirious Frederick who perceives Lilli as a ghost and Will takes him outside to safety. Claudia kills Gutenberg by pushing him out a window. Lilli then proceeds to confront her stepmother. She finds Claudia cradling her newly revived but weak baby. The two engage in a fight resulting in Lilli accidentally setting the room alight. Claudia becomes distracted by her son's distress allowing Lilli to grab a dagger and stabs the mirror wounding both Claudia and her reflection. Lilli flees to join Will and a delirious Frederick outside while Claudia burns to death. Her father finally comes to and is overjoyed to see her again.



Critical reception

The film received mixed to positive reviews, with a 60% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, but was praised for staying on the dark formula that was once present in fairy tales.


Sigourney Weaver's critically acclaimed performance earned her an Emmy Award nomination as well as a Screen Actors Guild nomination as Outstanding Lead Actress in a TV Movie. The film also earned two Emmy nominations for Makeup and Costume Design.[2]

Home media

Snow White: A Tale of Terror was initially released on VHS, as well as a DVD edition in the United States on August 25, 1998 via Polygram.[3][4] It was re-issued on DVD from Universal Home Entertainment on August 13, 2002, containing identical artwork to the previous edition[5] and most recently on May 1, 2012 from Universal, containing newly commissioned artwork.[6] A multipack DVD including the film (with Darkman II: The Return of Durant and Firestarter 2: Rekindled) was made available from Universal.[7]

In the United Kingdom, Universal Home Entertainment released the film on VHS format on June 1, 1998,[8] while a re-issued VHS became available via Universal from September 17, 2001.[9] The film has been issued twice on DVD from Universal Home Entertainment in the UK, with the first on February 6, 2006,[10] and a subsequent version containing new artwork on May 14, 2012.[11] All editions from Universal are now out-of-print as distribution company Fabulous Films currently acquire ownership rights for distribution in the United Kingdom. Fabulous released the film on April 4, 2016 on DVD,[12] and for the first time in any country, on Blu-ray format on July 4, 2016.[13]

The film is additionally available to rent or buy on Amazon Video.[14]


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