“Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters” accomplishes exactly what it sets out to do: Provide B movie splatterfest fun.
Here, as in the classic Grimm fairy tale, Hansel (Jeremy Renner) and Gretel (Gemma Arterton) are a brother and sister who stumble upon a house in the woods made of candy. Within lives a witch who captures them and holds them prisoner, fattening them to eventually cook and eat them. But the two children turn the tables, and are able to push the witch into her own oven and burn her alive.
“Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters” shows that this incident led the two to grow to be mercenary witch hunters, traveling from town to town, collecting reward for killing practitioners of witchcraft. Of course, the witches of the film aren’t just normal townsfolk as in, say, the Salem witch trials. In this film, witches are heinous, monstrous creatures. They fly about on their tree branches, screeching, and when they’re grounded, they often leap about on all fours as an animal might. Hansel and Gretel battle these creatures with their arsenal of steampunk era heavy ordnance and often, with hand to hand combat.
When they stumble upon a hamlet that’s experienced a rash of missing children, they realize that something out of the ordinary may be happening. Indeed, with a “Blood Moon” pending, the local coven of witches (led by Famke Janssen) is kidnapping more children than ever, in order to perform a special ritual that will make them more powerful than ever. They will have the means to become impervious to fire.
It’s up to Hansel and Gretel to see that that doesn’t happen.
“Hansel and Gretel” never promised to be a good movie, and indeed, it really isn’t great. But there was always a slim hope that it might be a fun movie, and on that count, it definitely delivers. Renner and Atherton roam the woods like bad asses, decked in leather, carrying silly huge weapons, getting into fistfights and firing cross-bow bolts at spastic, half-human witches. Eventually, they even run across a poorly CGI’ed Troll, as well. But the movie never lets you forget that it’s a lark… that it’s not a candidate for any kind of critical acclaim. Instead, it’s a B movie action film about killing up some witches.
The witches here get shot, stabbed, spliced, beaten, burned, and beheaded. Blood flies and witches wail as the Hansel and Gretel frequently do what they do best. The lightweight plot never gets in the way of the slaughter of witches. It provides a basic framing and then lets the duo get to work witch hunting. Renner and Arterton do it in a no-nonsense style, too. Just getting it done as if they do it all the time and want to get the grisly deed behind them as quickly as possible. That’s not to say that the movie is without its share of dark humor, but I certainly wouldn’t deem this an “action comedy” by any means.
Disposable and certainly not of a quality that’s going to impress critics, “Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters” nonetheless manages to entertain with a light plot and heavy emphasis on witch killing action. While I wouldn’t hail it as a great movie by any means, I know that I certainly enjoyed it.