Starring: Jeremy Renner, Gemma Arterton, Famke Janssen, Pihla Viitala, Derek Mears, and Peter Stormare.
Directed by: Tommy Wirkola
Written by: Tommy Wirkola and Dante Harper
Running time: 88 minutes
Rated: R (for strong fantasy horror violence and gore, brief sexuality/nudity and language)
Movies based on fairy tales have been around since the dawn of cinema. Alice in Wonderland was first filmed in 1915 and since then, there have been countless film adaptations of these types of stories. But to me, it seems just within the past few years have they really started coming out of the woodwork with films like Red Riding Hood, Snow White and the Huntsman, Jack the Giant Killer, Oz: The Great and Powerful, Mirror Mirror, and several more. I’m not sure if it’s because of the popularity of shows like Once Upon a Time that showed Hollywood that this is a viable and lucrative genre or just because it’s time for these films, either way makes no matter.
Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters is a big-budget, slick adaptation of the Brothers Grimm fairy tale. As usual, I wasn’t expecting too much from this film, and was pleasantly surprised. It’s billed as an action/horror piece, which it is, but its light on horror and heavy on the action, which as it turns out, still makes it a darn fun film.
After an opening prologue telling the story of young Hansel and Gretel as they are left in the forest by their father, wander into the gingerbread house and through their resourcefulness, defeat the cannibal witch, the movie proper picks up 15 years later. We are introduced to the adult brother and sister witch hunting team starring Jeremy Renner (The Bourne Legacy) as the roguish Hansel and Gretel, played by the sultry voiced Gemma Arterton (Byzantium). Ever since the twins narrowly escaped their first encounter with a witch, they travel the globe hunting and killing any and every witch they track down.
Hansel & Gretel are hired by a village close to where they grew up to find several missing children that were kidnapped by the powerful grand witch Muriel, played by the always lovely Famke Janssen (X-Men). The evil Muriel wants to use the children to sacrifice during a coming Blood Moon ritual that will make her and other witches invincible. The siblings must use their exceptional witch fighting prowess to defeat Muriel and save the doomed children before the Blood Moon ritual is complete as they discover the shocking truth about their own family and childhood.
Hansel & Gretel isn’t a film that requires much thinking, it’s just a fun popcorn flick, and that’s OK. Set in an undetermined time, looking to be maybe the 17th century, the duo uses ultra-cool steampunk-ish weaponry including rapid fire crossbows, grenades, and Wild West style Gatling guns. Clad in slick looking skin tight leather garb reminiscent of Van Helsing, they have all the appearances of two bad-ass, witch bounty hunters.
The acting is great as you would expect with this caliber of a cast. Renner and Arterton make for believable siblings with good chemistry between them. Famke Janssen is deliciously evil and obviously having great fun playing such an evil character. Also, you won’t actually see his face on screen, but Derek Mears of Jason Voorhees fame from the Friday the 13th remake plays the wonderfully sympathetic troll Edward, buried under tons of prosthetic and animatronic makeup.
The real star of a film like this is the special effects, both the amazing fighting & stunt work and the creature effects are top notch. There are plenty of really awesome fights between Hansel & Gretel and witches that will leave you gasping in excitement. Let’s not forget a plethora of creepy, unique witches in some great makeup and one awesome troll makeup.
Norwegian writer/director Tommy Wirkola (Dead Snow) does a bang up job on his first big-budget American film which gives me plenty of hope for him in his future projects. As I said before, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters is a popcorn flick full of great fun, if you’re looking for logic or something to make you think, look elsewhere. At the end of this film, I found myself hoping it pulls in some big bucks because I would love to see this duo in another adventure; it’s that fun, highly recommended.
Watch the trailer here,