In the latest modern re-telling of a classic fairy tale, the movie industry has brought us “Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters.”
The name itself tells the premise of the movie. After being left in the woods, siblings Hansel and Gretel happen upon the house made of candy, are captured and ultimately defeat the witch holding them hostage. Now orphans, they make it their mission to hunt down and destroy witches across the world.
Eventually they are hired to come take care of a witch problem in the town of Oxford, where children have gone missing. Faced with opposition from the town sheriff, they search for clues about the whereabouts of the witch and what their mission is. This, in the end, ties back to the fateful night when they were abandoned in the woods and may be able to resolve the sibling’s unanswered questions.
The movie is set like all dark re-telling’s, in gray tones, with the only color being the sinister colors of blood, candy or in the witches wild coloring. The town of Oxford is a dirty village set in the middle of witch territory, whose people are quick to point the finger.
The premise of this movie could have gone two ways. One, it could have ended up being the next in a successful line of re-telling’s, or two, it could end up as a grisly blood fest that studios will dump in the movie wasteland that is January. Obviously, it was the latter.
But fear not, the movie isn’t all a waste of time. While predictable in its premise and plot (good witch vs. evil witches who are seeking ultimate power), this movie is bloody, good fun, in a rather tongue-in-cheek way.
Hansel and Gretel strut around the countryside, in black leather get-ups, toting steampunk style weaponry, exchanging punches with witch kind and sending blood spraying. When a troll comes in and assists Gretel, much to her surprise, the squishing and subsequent explosions of blood are so theatrical they’re hysterical.
Oh, and Hansel is a diabetic. From all that candy he was force fed while in captivity, he developed the “sugar sickness” and it sets upon him at the most inopportune times. Like when he’s about to finish off a witch, or sweep the pretty lady off her feet, down he goes.
Gemma Arterton finds a role that is perfect for her, as the next name in the roster of kick-butt women. Rather than playing second string to the men of a movie (i.e. Sam Worthington in “Clash of the Titans” or Jake Gyllenhaal in “Prince of Persia”), she is a force to be reckoned with as Gretel, in a story where powerful women are easily called “witch.”
Jeremy Renner also may find some silver lining in this dreary flick. His dry Hansel is straight forward to the point of it being worth a few giggles, like when he keeps sipping his drink, despite the man that just exploded all over the tavern, or when hanging upside down in a tree.
The best performance goes to Famke Janssen, who plays evil Grand Witch Muriel. As a Grand Witch, she can appear as a normal woman, rather than the rotted surface that takes over a witch’s appearance. She revels in her role as the evil Muriel, playing with the siblings and leading her horde of witches to the final battle.
The movie was rated R for strong fantasy horror violence and gore, brief sexuality/nudity and language. At 88 minutes, the movie moves quickly and wraps up even faster. The movie isn’t for the weaker stomached, because when those bodies start exploding, “Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters” isn’t shy about sharing all the gory details.