Review: Hansel & Gretel Witch Hunters
PLOT: After being abandoned by their parents one dark night and fighting off a creepy old witch, Hansel and Gretel make killing evil hags their trade. When a rash of child abductions begin, the two are summoned to find a few witches and keep the young ones safe and snug in their beds… and it takes a whole lot of blood to do it.
My expectations for the new action oriented fairy tale HANSEL & GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS weren’t very high. From the poor trailer to the film premiering the night before opening, chances were slim that it would be something spectacular. So the question is how bad is it? And the answer… surprise, surprise, it’s not good but it’s not altogether garbage.
We first meet Hansel and Gretel as children being whisked away in the night by their father and left to their own devices in the dark forest. Clearly the parents are in some sort of danger, and you’ll figure that out pretty quickly. So after their father abandons them and tells the children to not move until he comes back, they move. The frightened children discover a house made of candy and end up killing a freaky old witch. Soon, this witch killing becomes their life. HANSEL & GRETEL for the most part feels more akin to a television series like “Once Upon a Time”, “Supernatural” or “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” yet it has a ton more CG gore and the continual use of the word “f*ck” just to remind the audience that it is an R-rated feature. However, each one of those TV shows is a lot more fun even without the F-word.
Not to say that this action flick is all bad, at least they were smart enough to hire the likes of Gemma Arterton and Jeremy Renner who play the witch hunting siblings. The two actors are more than capable and seem to be having a good time. It was especially fun to see the lovely Ms. Arterton in action as she slaughters all the bad witches intent on kidnapping children for what they call a “Blood Moon Sacrifice.” Apparently, if the witches all gather together and make this Sabbath a party, they become immortal or something like that. And thankfully, the title characters have a pretty impressive arsenal and are ready to save the world and they look good doing it. Props should also be given to the lovely Famke Janssen who plays a seriously nasty witch named Muriel. She is having a blast playing a baddie and like both the leads, she has the acting chops to do it well.
Writer and director Tommy Wirkola (he co-wrote this script with Dante Harper) has made a couple of entertaining flicks including 2009’s Nazi zombie horror show DEAD SNOW. Thankfully he injects a lighthearted element to this it’s just a shame that the action and fight sequences become so repetitive. Find a witch, chase her down and give her one hell of a fight and repeat. Thus it continues occasionally introducing a new character here and there including a young wannabe hunter named Ben (Thomas Mann), a seductively sweet could be witch Mina (Phila Vitala) and one of the most gentlemanly yet powerful trolls you’ve ever seen courtesy of the talented Derek Mears. And just like in THE LAST STAND, Peter Stormare shows up to be the a-hole and he sure is good at it. I just wish I was having as much fun watching it as they seemed to be.
After it’s very short running time, this feels like a missed opportunity. In fact, it seems as though there may have been more to this story as it simply goes through the motions injecting very little in the way of surprises. The script feels choppy and strangely paced with characters conveniently showing up to help fight the good fight. While you would almost have to expect a movie like this to be a little predictable, it would have been nice to not telegraph what was to come in such an obvious and clichéd manner. HANSEL & GRETEL is basically paint by numbers adventure with hefty amount of gore and even a little nudity thrown in for good measure. And even the 3D is really good as body parts and arrows shoot out into the audience, just as they should in a proper B-horror flick. Audiences will probably have fun as this lightweight and empty story plays out even if they will forget about it once the credits role. Yes there are a couple of sweet treats, but this is one candy coated flick that at best is worth a rental if you desire a few empty calories.