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Un-Happily Ever After
As 'The Brothers Grimm' reminds us, not all fairy tales are meant for children ...

By Sean Axmaker
Special to MSN Movies

As anyone who has ever read the original, unadulterated Brothers Grimm can tell you, real fairy tales are not sweet. They are dark, dangerous and primal. They reach into the darkest corners of our imagination and threaten us with our most basic fears. We've since sanitized them in storybooks and movies, the better to protect the fragile little minds of our modern wee ones from nightmares. Just compare Disney's treatments of "Cinderella" and "Sleeping Beauty" with the strange and weird Brothers Grimm originals, where the villains are punished with violence and mutilation in the vengeance-filled happily ever-afters. What parent wouldn't want to soften those grotesque edges?

It's been left to directors like Tim Burton and Terry Gilliam to dredge up those forgotten shadows, and they show no signs of ending their romp through the dark corners of fantasy and imagination. "The Brothers Grimm," Gilliam's latest genre-trampling fantasy is a slapstick thriller with nightmarish edges, while Burton follows up his eccentric remake "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" with the innocently macabre "Corpse Bride," an animated storybook romance by way of Charles Addams and Edward Gorey.

Yes, those primal instincts still occur, but usually with a grown-up audience in mind. Here are the best of those fairy tale movies for big kids.

10. "Snow White: A Tale of Terror" (1997)
Leave all memories of Disney behind. This revisionist take features a gang of outcasts standing in for the dwarves, a tarnished Prince Charming and a stepmother (Sigourney Weaver) who turns wicked with insanity. Monica Keena plays the headstrong heroine as a defiant adolescent on the verge of adulthood, a whirl of hormones and romantic fantasy. But Weaver steals the film with her witchy portrait of hysterical narcissism and medieval madness. Though it never quite delivers on its promise, the landscape of this darkly handsome production (it was shot in Czech Republic) casts a spell over the film, as if bringing it to the folkloric roots of the original fairy tale in all its grotesque and grim (or, if you will, Grimm) dimensions.

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