Ya know, a lot can be said about a weekend where you watch Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter one night, then follow it up with Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters the next. That’s not to say either film is bad. Quite the opposite – actually, both films were pretty enjoyable fare that I probably don’t ever need to see again. Still, they both have multiple things in common, primarily the fact that both are campy film concepts that involve visually stellar directors, involve hunting some kind of monster, and take themselves too seriously.
If there’s one negative thing I’ll say about Buffy the Vampire Slayer, it’s that it set the stage for all future vampires/werewolves/witches/monsters to know some sort of martial arts. Ever since Buffy hits the airwaves, it seems that, if a hunter/slayer knows martial arts, then so does every monster they hunt, even though monsters really shouldn’t need to. I mean, if I had the power of 10 men, would I really need to learn jeet kune do? I’m thinking no.
Still, with a film called Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, you kind of have to leave such questions at the door before you walk in. From the director of Dead Snow, you know you really aren’t in for a serious take on the classic fairy tale. And I am a sucker for a dark fairy tale story. Now that fairy tales are big, we’re getting hit with them from all over the place. Snow White and the Huntsman, the TV shows “Grimm” and “Once Upon A Time,” and now Witch Hunters.
Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters begins with an alternate take on the original fairy tale we know. Hansel and Gretel are left in the woods by their parents for reasons unknown, and they come across a witch’s house made out of candy. Well, we know how this one goes – they defeat the witch (with one very important alteration for the movie) and, instead of living happily ever after, grow up to be famed witch hunters, travelling the world and killing evil witches…for a fee. When they come across a village where 11 children have been taken by witches, they investigate and come across a coven of witches trying to perform a ceremony that will allow them to be immortal.
Pretty standard fare, honestly. Despite the fun concept, the story isn’t anything terribly original or innovative and, as sad as I am to say it (I really enjoyed Dead Snow), the direction really isn’t anything all that spectacular either. Gemma Arterton does a great job as Gretel, and Jeremy Renner…well, he’s Jeremy Renner. Am I the only one who remembers him as being charismatic in 28 Weeks Later? When did he turn into the new Sam Worthington? Do these guys ever smile anymore?
Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters is odd in that even though it’s predictable (you know what’s coming WAY before the big reveal near the end), and has nothing special to speak of, it’s got a charm that makes it enjoyable. Peter Stormare is in it, basically playing the same role he did in Brothers Grimm, but in a better film. There’s also a certain joy in the fact that, though there’s plenty of CG, there’s also a good amount of practical effects and makeup, which I was grateful for. Derek Mears (Jason in Freddy vs Jason) plays a troll named Edward in the film, and I can’t begin to tell you how much more enjoyable his presence was for me knowing that it wasn’t a CG character.
So really, there’s not much negative to say about Hansel and Gretel – fans of this type of film should check it out. If you think the concept is stupid, seeing the film isn’t likely to change your mind. The worst thing I have to say about the film is that it’s not exceptional. It’s fun bubble gum fare and, if you see it in 3D, you get a whole lot of guts and arrows flying at you through the screen. While I wish it would inject a bit more humor (other than the concept and the fact that everyone’s a damn ninja in martial arts), there’s still plenty to keep you smiling about the film, even if you’re not likely to remember much about it a couple of days after.
Awesomeness score – 6/10