Let me start with the good news. Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters has awesome music thanks to Hans Zimmer, imaginative set-design, and the makeup on the witches is top-notch. The bad news: everything else. While it is based on a fairytale, this R-rated film is definitely not the kind of movie you should take young children to see. The witches are scary (at times even on par with Angelica Houston in The Witches, and that’s saying a lot for me) and there is a lot of gore. It was surprising that the filmmakers didn’t reach for a PG-13 rating (a la Van Helsing), since that would appeal more to the target demographic.
What the movie overwhelms with in gore, it lacks in plot. The story centers around world-famous witch hunters, Hansel (Jeremy Renner) and Gretel (Gemma Arterton), two siblings who have made it their life’s mission to eradicate all witches after they were almost killed by one as children. When eleven children go missing in the village of Augsburg, Hansel and Gretel are called in to find the witch that is responsible. As it turns out, ultra-powerful witch Muriel (Famke Janssen) took the children in order to sacrifice them during a “blood moon” ritual that would make witches immune to fire. It is up to Hansel and Gretel to save the children and stop the witches. Major plot hole alert: While one would think that fire must be the only way to kill witches, since they are so concerned about it, the only evil witch that died by fire in the film was the one Hansel and Gretel fought as children. All of the others died of gunshot wounds, decapitation, etc… Perhaps the witches should have instead invested in a Kevlar spell.
Not only was the plot stale and underwhelming, the characters of Hansel and Gretel left little to be desired as well. Renner’s Hansel was boring and brought nothing remotely interesting to the storyline, well except for the silly plot point that he has to get insulin injections multiple times a day to combat the effects of eating the witch’s candy as a child. Additionally, the central brother-sister relationship in the film was missing heart; only in a few scenes did the siblings even seem to care about each other. Muriel (Janssen) was the only character I found mildly entertaining. Her makeup was fantastic and she actually did create a decent villain; if only her material were better.
By the end of the film, I found myself wondering, “Did the actors even read this script before signing on? No wonder the release date was delayed for so long.” For a movie that only lasts an hour and twenty-eight minutes, it felt like I was in the theater for a lot longer; that’s never a good sign. If you are looking for a horror/thriller movie this weekend, I would suggest going to see Mama instead.
My score: D+