Wicked witches and great gore not enough to salvage Hansel & Gretel
Starring Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton. Rated 18A.
Witches don’t get a lot of screen time in Hollywood, perhaps because they’re mostly only good for flying around on brooms, making stews out of small woodlands creatures, and scaring the shit out of Kansas farm girls. If the monstrously uneven Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters gets anything right, it’s making forest-dwelling practitioners of the Wiccan arts truly terrifying. Jacob and Wilhem Grimm would soil themselves at the sight of the candy house–dwelling horror-show who kicks off the movie. Imagine that locked-in-the-cellar thing from The Evil Dead crossed with Regan from The Exorcist at age 276, and you’ve got a skin-crawling starting point.
Too bad the rest of Hansel & Gretel is nowhere near as effective, the movie stumbling along never knowing what it wants to be: a winkingly updated fairy tale, an action extravaganza, or something Jim Henson would have dreamed up between bong hits. The answer is, probably all three, none of them done particularly well.
Still, in stretches, it’s empty-calories fun. Hansel & Gretel finds Fairytale Land’s favourite sugar addicts grown up and on a medieval-times mission: to rid the world of anyone with a cauldron. Looking like a vaguely embarrassed man who can’t believe he was in The Hurt Locker, Jeremy Renner is Hansel. Seemingly cast because she looks great in leather pants, Gemma Arterton plays Gretel.
The movie is directed by Norway’s Tommy Wirkola, who brought an army of Nazi zombies back to life in the eye-poppingly gory cult fave Dead Snow. Not surprisingly then, Hansel & Gretel’s only real selling points are endless geysers of blood, flying entrails, and gleefully administered decapitations. And, of course, witches that make you wonder what the hell you ever saw in flesh-eating zombies, blood-slurping vampires, and flying friends of that dead kid Casper. Is that enough to get you off? Well, that likely depends on whether you drive a vehicle with a bumper sticker that reads “My Other Car Is a Broom”.