I have a great love for terrible films. Not the really awful soul destroying ones, but those which have decent low budget:high aspiration or high budget:knowingly silly ratios. I firmly expected Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters to be a daft, gory nonsense fest with a few knowing winks to camera and high camp all round. Instead I feel irrationally betrayed. This film is awful, not so bad it’s good, but so bad it is bad and the badness seeps into the wounds in your flesh and makes you suffer.
Where to begin? I’m fine with the concept – Hansel and Gretel left in the woods as kids, preyed on by a witch, they kill her and become full time witch hunters. That’s fine. It falls apart almost immediately as the leads (Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton) are apparently playing it straight (mostly) against the rest of the cast who are just chowing down on the scenery. It’s rather jarring.
Not as jarring as the weightless plasticine weapons they tote around or the appalling make up effects for the witches – honestly, the makers of The Evil Dead would have been ashamed to toss the polyfilla-faced freaks on the screen. The witches are just ludicrous cackling things with no character or merit – their wirework looks exactly like the stunt doubles have just been jerked into the air, and the fight choreography is exceptionally poor. Think ‘80s cop TV drama and you’ve got the quality right. I like gore in films, and I like film violence but this film seems to revel in beating up women and killing them. Even Gretel gets beaten up by the sheriff and punched in the face.
The sheriff… initially Peter Stormare’s character is set up as the bad guy and has some potential, but he’s just stamped on halfway through the film (literally). Instead of doing any kind of human or social story line we’re dragged into a predictable and unoriginal plot to make witches invulnerable to fire and some other bollocks about white witches (I won’t spoil the whole film for you – they’ve done that themselves).
Every possible moment of interest or intrigue is ruined by choosing the laziest, most obvious and pointless revelation. Hansel injects himself regularly and gets ill if he doesn’t. He’s diabetic. Because he was forced to eat all the candy in that house where they burned the witch. Get it? Fuck off. A troll (apparently made of foam rubber) helps out Gretel but “trolls work for witches” so… oh my god she must be a-“. Yeah. Oh and there’s a handful of other red shirt characters and main characters you can’t possibly care about too.
There must have been something of merit in there… I quite liked the intro credits, until they stopped to allow the film to proceed. The end, when there are lots of witches around is like they’ve dug out all the rejects from Jabba’s Palace in Return of The Jedi. They’re okay. They all get killed by a massive gatling gun, including the Siamese twin witches and the paraplegic one. So that’s a waste. There’s a glimmer of a more fun film right at the end where they take their witch hunting crew off around the world, but by then you’ll want them all to die anyway.
I could rant further, but it’s making me remember too much of this atrocious mess of a film. How can I quantify its badness for you? It’s worse than Van Helsing (which I liked because it has a sense of fun), it’s worse than Season of the Witch, worse than Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter; it’s better than Revenge of Billy The Kid. Don’t watch it.
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