THE BLACK SHEEP is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATH. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Dig in!
Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (2013)
Directed by Tommy Wirkola
"It’s great to see something R-rated that actually plays like its R-rated."
I haven’t figured out Jeremy Renner. He’s been in a fair amount of movies I’ve dug, and I’ve generally enjoyed him in periodic doses. Hurt Locker? Sure. The Town? You bet. But can the dude carry a movie? The Bourne Legacy was decent enough, but with him replacing Matt Damon something ended up missing. Maybe it’s his persona or style or voice. Hell, maybe I just don’t like the guy. Or so I thought.
At the same time, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters typically is the kinda movie I hate. Like a lot. It falls under the trend of taking simple childhood fairy tales and attempting to not only modernize them, but make them all fancy pants hip and cool when nothing can make it hip and cool. Just gussy it up in 3D along with lots of explosions and swooping slow motion camera angles until suddenly the thing looks kinda bad ass.
And while usually that’s the thing I mock, Hansel & Gretel did all of the above and somehow ended up pretty damn enjoyable. Why? Well, there’s something so over the top, so ridiculous that it’s hard not to shrug the shoulders and just enjoy the thing. Why not? It never takes itself serious and it knows exactly what it is: a silly film that isn't afraid to do what the hell it wants. Notably, the gore in here is fantastic. People get dead by many, many different methods: decapitated, smashed, squished, shot, stabbed, hung, sliced, and stretched. All without sparing the bloodshed, which is something a broad appeal film like this rarely does. It’s great to see something R-rated that actually plays like its R-rated.
Hansel & Gretel actually reminds me a lot of one of Tim Burton’s last great works in Sleepy Hollow. Here, writer/director Tommy Wirkola appears to have followed the same basic formula mixing gothic style with technology that sure as hell didn’t exist back then. Just as Ichabod Crane’s technology seldom made sense, Hansel & Gretel’s equipment is even stupider with the use electricity at times (and even a defibrillator pad!) and Gretel’s fancy machine gun crossbow, which is, you know, impossible.
If I have a major compliant about the movie (besides, you know, logical things) it’d be the dialogue, which is downright terrible. It lacks any hint of creativity or flair that could have potentially made the thing even better. Think about it. If something like Evil Dead kept all the creative camera work and Deadite gore but never gave Bruce Campbell one memorable line, would fans remember it? Perhaps so, but it would lack the character, the personality everyone adores. Hansel does get one good line though: “Whatever you do, don’t eat the f*cking candy.” Not bad.
But like Sleepy Hollow, you just can’t, nor should you, take the thing seriously…like at all, which is a good thing because Hansel & Gretel will end up one of those movies with a high level of rewatchability. It’s simple, kinda stupid but an effective action/horror that loves itself a whole lot.
The action/horror/comedy isn’t an easy genre to get right. More times than not, movies end up with too much action and no horror or with so much goof that all action and horror can’t be taken seriously, a hard balance to avoid being a family adventure or one that even tries to play it safe. Instead, gore splatters by the buckets, more so than any recent movie in memory. Hansel & Gretel may not make Renner into the next Tom Cruise, but if he can make entertaining flicks that take some chances then I'm back on board. Just don't f*ck it up.