Title: Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters
Does Jeremy Renner Have A Gambling Problem Or Something? H&G:WH was shot before both The Avengers and The Bourne Legacy, so Renner wasn't exactly "A-list" at the time.
Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: Three Witch Hazels out of five.
Brief Plot Synopsis: Brother and sister deal with childhood trauma in bold, innovative fashion.
Tagline: "Classic tale. New twist."
Better Tagline: "No relation to Abraham Lincoln:Vampire Hunter. What a flop that was, huh? Heh heh."
Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: Abandoned in the woods by their parents, young Hansel and Gretel stumble upon a house made of candy and are subsequently captured by the witch residing therein. Dispatching her through a combination of luck and an apparent immunity to magic, the two grow up to become the foremost witch hunters in all the land. Good thing, too, since a recent rash of disappearing children points to something big (and witch-related) on the horizon.
"Critical" Analysis: Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters is a patently ridiculous movie. Only the vaguest attempts are made to root the proceedings in reality (the action takes place in and around what is presumably the Bavarian city of Augsburg; Antwerp is also mentioned) amidst a barrage of anachronistic language, steampunk technology, parkour, and kung fu.
But "ridiculous" doesn't have to mean "bad." And initial appearances to the contrary, H&G:WH isn't bad at all.
You can be forgiven for assuming this is just the latest horrific reimagining of a classic property a la Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter), and probably others I'm only too happy to forget. It's a logical comparison to make, but also an incorrect one, for the story of Hansel and Gretel, like most of those adapted by the Brothers Grimm, is pretty horrific on its own.
That said, It's hard to zero in on any single element that's particularly memorable. The acting, for example, isn't anything to leave a trail of bread crumbs about: Jeremy Renner (Hansel) gamely pushes the right buttons like a guy who knows better things are just around the corner, while the role of the stoic Gretel sort of plays into Gemma Arterton's wooden style. There's also Peter Stormare playing his second middle management villain in as many weeks, and Famke Janssen takes what she herself has admitted was a paycheck role to play the Big Bad.
Maybe we were wrong to doubt director Tommy Wirkola? 2009's Dead Snow was enjoyably sanguinous, after all, and he brings much of the same sensibility here. I don't know if the end result qualifies as "horror," but whether your tastes run to gratuitous head stompings, f-bombs, naked redheads (well hello there, Pihla Viitala), or overt Army of Darkness references (the first witch encountered is a dead -- pun intended -- ringer for the "You shall die!" Deadite in Lord Arthur's castle, while the pair's Augsburg entrance heavily apes Ash's "primitive screwhead" speech), you'll probably find something that agrees with you.
Against my better judgment, I enjoyed Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters. It differs from other classic lit/horror mashups because the scares are more organic. H&G derives from medieval myth, and is therefore dark and shockingly violent at its core. Jane Austen and the like were probably less concerned with horror as entertainment when kids were still regularly dying of typhoid and smallpox. You had to be more screwed up than usual (Poe, Machen, Blackwood) to write scary stories in those days.
I'm not sure if witches are the next vampires/zombies, or if the hinted-at franchise potential has any legs, but this was a perfectly vulgar way to spend 90 minutes.
Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters is in theaters today. I counted at least six occasions when Renner could've led with, "This ... is my BOOM STICK."
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