Hansel & Gretel proves that witch does not kill us makes us stronger
In the new film Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, breadcrumbs are replaced with bloody body parts and the little candy chompers are all grown-up and going after the hated evil hags with an arsenal of incredibly cool weapons. It’s an inventive and alternative take on the Brothers Grimm fairy-tale, with emphasis on the “grim” – but it’s still a lot of fun.
I applaud the makers of this film for sticking to their awesome steampunk guns and going with a hardcore “R” rating on this movie. There is ultra-violence and blood & gore galore in Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, as well as a touch of tasteful, albeit gratuitous, nudity. It is also a very funny film if you have a dark sense of humor and can appreciate over-the-top one-liners.
We all know the story of Hansel & Gretel, the young brother & sister who were left in the woods by their parents and forced to fend for themselves. The starving kids wander through the forest until they come across a house made of cakes & candy and help themselves to its bounty until they are captured by a witch who intends to eat them. The siblings then turn the tables on the old shrew and burn her alive in her own oven.
The film carries on the story from there as the brother & sister grow up to be celebrity nineteenth- century bounty hunters of sorts, with their specialty being the death and dismembering of the hated witches of their childhood. The siblings are hired by a German village to find and save the several children that have been taken by a local coven of evil-doers.
Hansel (Jeremy Renner) & Gretel (Gemma Arterton) must find and defeat the witches and their leader, Muriel (Famke Janssen), before the “Blood Moon” ceremony when all the children will be sacrificed and the witches will become immune to burning.
Gretel’s pure heart is also a necessary ingredient for the Blood Moon ceremony to be effective, because it turns out that the siblings’ mother was secretly a “white witch” and her children inherited some of her abilities; also making them immune to direct spells from the witches.
Hansel & Gretel are helped out by a young witch-hunter fanboy, Ben (Thomas Mann), who has collected news articles about their exploits and has a hand-drawn poster of the sexy Gretel on his bedroom wall. After he rescues his heroine and brings her back to his home, he delivers what was, for me, the funniest line in the movie, asking her, “Do you want some porridge?”
The witch-hunters are also helped out by a troll named Edward (Derek Mears), who also becomes infatuated with Gretel. (And really, who wouldn’t?) Veteran character actor Peter Stormare (The Last Stand) plays the village’s Sheriff Berringer, who is humiliated by Hansel & Gretel and meets a particularly gruesome (and hilarious) end at the foot of Edward.
The movie’s narrative gets more than a little convoluted, but because it’s all rather tongue-in-cheek I wasn’t really bothered by its gaping plot holes, modern dialogue with American accents and sloppy story-telling. It’s more about just having fun with a twisted version of the fairy-tale. Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters is produced by comedian Will Ferrell and his Gary Sanchez Productions company, so you can’t take this material too seriously.
For me, the real stars of this show were all of the fantasy gizmos and guns that make up Hansel & Gretel’s arsenal. A lot of creativity went into these contraptions and I hope that there will be a documentary about their designs on the home video release of this film. If you love the steampunk genre, you’ll get a real kick out of this movie’s alternative weaponry.
Written & directed by Norwegian filmmaker Tommy Wirkola (Dead Snow), Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters would make an excellent double-bill with Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Both films are irreverent, no holds barred action flicks that play fast and loose with history & facts and are unencumbered by trying to maintain a PG-13 rating. Neither is a great film, but both are great fun and have cult status potential.