Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters

In theory, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters actually sounds pretty good. Seriously, hear me out. 30 years on from the disastrous and infamous tale of two little children held captive by a witch in a gingerbread house, and Hansel (Renner) and Gretel (Arterton) have grown into hardcore vengeful bounty hunters. Gretel is feisty, sexy, merciless, and Hansel is daring, getting laid and… diabetic. They cut witches’ heads off, burn them alive and sometimes skin them for good measure. Excellent – almost sounds like Quentin Tarantino presents Hansel and Gretel, no?

Story time. Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters is essentially a continuation from the Brothers Grimm fairy tale; brother and sister are grown up and ruthlessly demolishing any other remaining witches. Exactly as you’d expect. And as this film is set somewhere in Bavaria-style country, there are a lot of witches and a lot of children getting kidnapped mysteriously. Hansel and Gretel are hired by the mayor (Rainer Bock) of one particular village to rescue the missing children, much to the disapproval of the town’s sheriff (Peter Stormare) – who resents Hansel and Gretel since they showed him up in front of the whole town. BURRN. Nevertheless, the siblings must try to solve the mystery surrounding the missing children whilst fending off broom-flying witches and… a troll. They also uncover a secret surrounding their parents and that fateful day when their father abandoned them in the woods. The film manages to stay reasonably faithful to the original fairy tale, whilst simultaneously changing A LOT.

In the opening pre-credits sequence, Hansel and Gretel reenacts the original story. It’s all cheese and a knock-off Pan’s Labyrinth witch. Then we get the opening credits; the most impressive aspect of the film. Genuinely making good use of the 3D, the excitingly animated credits blasted us through a montage of Hansel and Gretel bludgeoning witches to their deaths, with newspaper headlines informing us of the witch hunters’ various successful killing sprees. Cue blood squirting and bones crunching. All good, then the rest of the film continues in an arduous vein of beating women and torching witches with crap CGI faces. For a film that could have gone dangerously down the ’12A’ route (absent of any decent violence), Hansel and Gretel makes good use of some extensive action sequences involving Tarantino-style blood affairs (seriously, heads get stamped on and blown up like ketchup bottles!) but otherwise the plot is pretty rubbish, never going anywhere but getting severely and utterly lost in the woods.

And then we have Arterton and Renner. Both exceptionally bland actors, the two try to make use of what little character development they have (which isn’t much) and it still fails miserably. It is so boring watching these two characters converse with each other and frankly, uncomfortable. There is no escaping the fact that everyone in the audience is thinking one thing: incest. Adding fuel to the fire, director and writer Tommy Wirkola adds a totally pointless love story for each of the siblings, with Hansel ending up sharing a nude hot bath experience with a ‘white witch’ and Gretel developing a close relationship WITH A TROLL. This plot didn’t go any further than a quick feel in the woods for Hansel, who is also a dick for no discernible reason. Famke Janssen, good old Famke, tries her utmost to be Queen Bee evil witch. It works to an extent, but sadly the terrible CGI effects take away from the overall scare impact. Script-wise, it takes a successful stab at humour every now and then, but mostly falls flat and embarrassingly on its face. There are also a surprising amount of unnecessary swear words and some shocking one-liners, with one particularly uninteresting witch shouting at a child – randomly and unconvincingly – “I WANT TO EAT YOUR BRAINS” … It just didn’t work.

I’d also like to talk about the accents because what happened there, please? Arterton puts on an American accent, presumably to match Renner’s, but the rest of the town is a mixture of German and British and Hansel’s chick is, what, Russian? Somewhat disappointingly, Hansel’s diabetes could have been played on a little more than it was, ending up as a hit-and-miss attempt at quirky humour. There was also a lot of boob on show from Arterton which was just seedy rather than sexy. On the whole, bar a few gory action sequences, an endearing yet irrelevant troll and an impressive opening, Hansel and Gretel is tedious, aimless and for some reason leaves room for a sequel.

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