Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (2013)

Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (2013)

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The freestyle dance contest was not going particularly well.
The freestyle dance contest was not going particularly well.

Twitter Plot Summary: Years after their encounter with a witch and her candy house, Hansel and Gretel are now witch hunters. Dressed in leather.

Genre: Action/Fantasy/Horror

Director: Tommy Wirkola

Key Cast: Jeremy Renner, Gemma Arterton, Famke Janssen, Peter Stormare, Pihla Viitala, Rainer Bock.

Five Point Summary:

1. A shotgun? Srsly?
2. 95% of this seems to be running through the woods.
3. “I go by many names… some call me Cillit Bang.”
4. Blood Moon-related shenanigans.
5. Inevitable climactic showdown. Bored now.

I had serious reservations about the film as soon as the words “MTV Films” appeared at the beginning. Jackass films aside, it’s usually an indication of a film’s quality, or lack thereof. Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters is clearly designed for the MTV generation, where substantial plot and intelligent filmmaking is left at the door in favour of quick cuts, rapid pacing and repetitive action sequences.

Trouble is afoot. Witches are reviled and witch hunters Hansel and Gretel (Renner and Arterton) are called in to save a small village from a group of powerful witches that are making their presence felt. There’s resistance from the sheriff (Peter Stormare) but otherwise the focus is on our eponymous witch hunters… well, hunting witches. There’s a bit more to it than that, of course. There’s a whole backstory to current events which stem from Hansel and Gretel’s initial encounter with the witch in the gingerbread house in their childhood. To say more would border on spoilers, but whilst I’m not hugely keen on narratives that arbitrarily create a destiny for the main characters it does at least tie everything together nicely.

Thankfully there is a redeeming factor – apart from the fact it’s repetitive the action is actually quite good. On the whole it’s clear what’s happening in each scene, and there’s plenty of energy to each sequence to maintain your interest. The CGI is better than I expected, but not by much. It has that video game feel to it that takes you out of the story once you pick up on it, but is still leagues ahead of the CGI used in R.I.P.D. Regrettably I can’t say much about the acting – Renner and Arterton are earnest as the lead pair, and indeed so is everybody else, but I think to be a winner it needed more knowing winks to the audience. Ramp up the camp, as it were, with tongue firmly in cheek and create a decent balance between action and humour. As it stands, it’s a little too staid for my liking. Famke Janssen also doesn’t have enough to do as villainous witch Muriel, there’s a few signs of how truly evil she is, but  it’s never played out to its full extent.

Worst "walking away from a fire/explosion" shot ever.
Worst “walking away from a fire/explosion” shot ever.

Updates to the established Hansel and Gretel lore include Hansel being diabetic thanks to the amount of sugary goodness he was forced to imbibe as a child, and that both siblings have access to a plethora of modern-style weapons, including what is essentially a pump action crossbow and a primitive shotgun. Yep, that’s quite silly but then we’re talking about a brother and sister who hunt witches for a living, so perhaps having weapons like this isn’t that far-fetched. Other than allowances made for those updates, we’re still very much in an old-school primitive fairy tale/fantasy world. There’s also a ridiculous amount of gore and violence, which came as a welcome surprise. Blood sprays all over the place, although it has some way to go before it can be on par with something like Peter Jackson’s Braindead. Even so, the liberal amount of claret was a plus point.

Some good action set pieces can’t save this from being a mostly bad film. The only recommendation I can make is that if you want a film that doesn’t require you to engage your brain for 85-90 minutes, or you’re a fan of Jeremy Renner and/or Gemma Arterton running around in leather outfits, then this is the film for you.

Favourite scene: The opening with young Hansel and Gretel in the witch’s gingerbread house.

Quote: “When you see my signal, unleash hell.”

Silly Moment:  Peter Stormare constantly getting smacked in the face.

Score: 2.5/5

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