Saturday, January 11, 2014

Horror Film Review

Hansel and Gretel - Witch Hunters (2013):  If ever a film was made for teenage boys, this is it.  Senseless action, gratuitous gore, a booby or two, and a light peppering of the word "fuck."  (I refuse to say 'F-word' because I'm a grown up and pretty sure no one really gives a fuck.)  But is this a horror flick?  Let's see...super evil witches stealing children for ritual sacrifice and the creative slaughter of anyone who gets in their way.  I'll go ahead and say yeah, it qualifies.

 When they were children, Hansel (Jeremy Renner) and Gretel (Gemma Arterton) were abandoned in the woods by their father for their own safety.  We learn later the townsfolk were gunning for their parents.  The why is obvious.  Lost and hungry, the kids stumble upon a cottage made of...wait for it...gingerbread.  They're captured by a witch who's looking to make them her supper.  Instead of becoming the entrĂ©e, Hansel and Gretel turn the tables on their ugly hostess and stuff her in the oven.  During the fracas, they discover witch magic has no effect on them.  Hmm.

Years later, the brother and sister travel the land as professional witch hunters.  The mayor of Augsburg (Rainer Bock) hires them when eleven of the small village's children go missing and witchcraft is suspected.  They soon discover that evil witch diva Muriel (Famke Janssen) is behind the kidnappings and that her plan is to sacrifice the kids during the Blood Moon (a rare and brief lunar phase...apparently) in order to cast a spell that will make all evil witches immune to fire.  As for allies, H and G have teenage boy Ben (Thomas Mann) who's their biggest fan and groupie, and Mina (Pihla Viitala), a good witch who's crushing on Hansel.  Oh, and Edward the Troll.  He's what you'd get if the Hulk and Thing (from the Fantastic Four) had a child.  Mina casts a spell on their steampunk weapons, which are as endless as they are insane, to make the evil witches vulnerable to them. The final battle is waged on a hilltop and is truly something to behold.  I'll just say this:  one of the insane weapons is a Gatling gun and there are dozens of evil witches in all shades of ugly. 

A few things stand out.  The level of gore, for one.  They actually show a guy getting drawn and quartered.  Granted, he's floating in mid-air and the ropes are bewitched, but still.  Edward the Troll likes to smash heads, and they show it.  Another guy simply explodes.  And what's with all beheadings via shotgun?  Also interesting is how often and completely Hansel and Gretel get their asses kicked.  It borders on embarrassing at times.  While there is humor, it would have been better served if they'd ramped that up.  With Will Farrell producing, I'm very surprised they didn't.  Now, the film is presumably set in Germany in what I'll guess is supposed to be the 17th century, although the Gatling gun and other assorted weaponry cast that into some doubt.  Why, then, does Hansel have no accent whatsoever?  I mean none.  He could be from Nebraska or Ohio or something.  Then again, no one else in the picture bothered either.  To be fair, as you watch, the teenage boy inside your brain reduces your attention sp-  Look!  Boobies!

The Skinny

Acting:  It's a B-action/horror flick and the actors adjusted their performances accordingly.  Renner is oddly emotionless a great deal of the time.
Story:  Nothing like retro-modernizing a classic fairy tale. 
Direction:  Tommy Wirkola, who also wrote it, is the Norwegian behind the most excellent horror flick Dead Snow (you know, the one with the Nazi zombies).  His direction here frenetic and, at times, frenzied.  You won't be bored.
Production Values:  Shot in Germany for $50 million, it's as slick and pretty as any other big budget, Hollywood vehicle. 
Gore/FX:  Both dials are cranked to 11.  I'll wager half the budget went to the CGI nerds.  Money well spent.
Scares:  Nah.
Ending:  Unlike most fairy tales penned by the Brothers Grimm, it's one that's happily ever after.
Verdict:  Should you see Hansel and Gretel - Witch Hunters?  If you're up for some ridiculous carnage and mindless mayhem, then you betcha.  Just remember to channel your inner teenage boy or you will be sorry.

Rating:  4 out of 5

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