Title: Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters
Genre(s): Action, Fantasy, Horror
Director(s): Tommy Wirkola
Release Year: 2013
Rotten Tomatoes: 15%
If there’s a children’s story that should never be a children’s story, it’s probably Hansel & Gretel. Taken away from their family and tortured by a witch in her candy-coated house, the two kids face an almost certain death but manage to work together to burn the witch alive. Now, that may not sound like the best kid’s book, but it definitely sounds like it could work as an R-rated horror comedy, especially one from Tommy Wirkola, the guy behind Nazi zombies in Dead Snow. Throw in people like Peter Stormare who love to ham it up in their roles, an action star like Jeremy Renner, Prince of Persia’s Gemma Arterton, and you’d think there would be no doubt this film would be tons of stupid fun. Well, instead of watching the two kids raise some hell on a group of witches, I felt like Hansel: being stuffed with pointless eye-candy until I could break free and burn this train-wreck of a film from my memory.
The opening scene definitely sets the tone for the movie, seemingly trying to gloss over the ridiculous elements of the story for the sake of a grittier film. And a gritty take on this story would have been fine as well, filled with gore and frights, but Wirkola kills any notion of a serious film every once in a while with slapstick humor and some terrible jokes. Once we join our heroes many years after their first encounter with a witch, they’re full-blown witch hunters, and some of the best in the world, on the hunt now for a witch that is abducting children for a ritual on the next blood moon. There’s your plot that could have been filled with a reflexive attitude but instead is squandered for jokes like a young boy touching Gretel’s (Arterton) chest while she’s asleep, or Hansel (Renner) being awkward with women. If you’ve seen a film before, these jokes probably won’t work on you. Fortunately there is one gag that worked for me upon its introduction and that is Hansel’s diabetes from being stuffed with candy by the witch they first met. Now he needs to take an insulin shot every couple hours or he’ll completely pass out, something the movie shows a total of three times, one of those times clearly intending to feel comedic as the crux to winning a fight.
If humor was all that was missing in this movie though, I wouldn’t be displeased with this film as much as I am. It could have just been a boring film, but instead it misses opportunity after opportunity, making it an abysmal one because there is nothing worse than watching something that could have been great, flop. Violence, which got this movie its R-rating, rarely managed to captivate me with some interesting kills. But even hunting down a witch feels routine because it amounts to missing at the opportune time, letting them get away, then chasing them through the forest until you catch them. Even when they do kill the witch, it’s normally a decapitation or burning them, something that never feels great when it quite easily could have. I wanted blood and lots of it, especially since this movie is rated R, tries to throw in humor throughout, and is based on a ridiculous premise. Even a climax that sets up for an excessive amount of gore, only attempts for a moment to deliver that, which is a shame because if mounted turrets in a medieval-like land isn’t believable, why should the gore have to be?
The unfortunate thing is that I feel like Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters is trying to appease many demographics, when really it should only have been trying to attract those who love films like Army of Darkness and Dead Snow, to the theater. And to be honest, that is how they marketed it, but the film spends too much time taking itself seriously to rise to the heights of those movies. It shoehorns in a romance sub-plot for both its main characters, one of which could actually have been funny if executed properly, and turns Famke Janssen into a villain, but one without any depth. If the movie didn’t try to walk the line between serious horror film and campy horror film, there would be something more to talk about here. Instead, the movie wastes its talent, my time, and what could have been a fun premise if it was handled a lot better.
Overall: Not Recommended