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John’s Horror Corner: Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (2013)

January 28, 2013

MY CALL:  A badder, funnier Van Helsing with witches and bad writing.  VERY fun bloody action and effects flick, though.  IF YOU LIKE THIS THEN WATCHVan Helsing (2004).

After being separated from their parents and left to fend for themselves in the witch-infested woods, Hansel (Jeremy Renner; The Avengers, The Bourne Legacy, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol) and Gretel (Gemma Arterton; Clash of the Titans, Prince of Persia) were forced to fight for their lives against a decrepit witch in a gingerbread house–pushing her in the oven, much to the tune of the Grimm Fairy Tale.

Famke Janssen as Murial, shifting between her witch and human form.

Fast forward to “present” day in Grimm land, the siblings are seasoned witch hunters hired by a town mayor to investigate the disappearance of several children.  They discover that a large coven of witches led by the toughest witch on the block, the grand witch Murial (Famke Janssen; Taken 2, the X-Men franchise), are collecting children for a blood moon ceremony to create some special potion.

They pick up a sidekick who reminds me of the young plucky Shia LaBeouf from Constantine.

During this adventure we meet a good-hearted, witch-serving troll named Edward (Derek Mears; Arena, Predators), wannabe witch hunter Ben (Thomas Mann; Project X), a good witch, and a variety of evil witches, no two being at all similar, with a variety of make-ups, prosthetics and creature concepts.  The witches were nearly all played by attractive actresses/stuntwomen.  The horned witch (Ingrid Bolsø Berdal; Chernobyl Diaries) and the candy witch (Monique Ganderton; Sucker Punch, 30 Days of Night: Dark Days, The King of Fighters) to name a couple.

Twin katana wielding Siamese twin witches.

Hansel and Gretel’s fights with witches are frequent and entertaining, even if at times silly, and loaded with heavy hits, blood and fun.  During a raid on the coven’s ceremony we get a major action sequence filled with gore and interesting combatants.

I felt that Renner’s acting talents were largely wasted on the poorly written dialogue of the very standoffish, mercenary-minded Hansel.  That’s not to say that he didn’t have his moments, though.  Arterton was dealt a more intriguingly written (and perhaps played) Gretel.  There’s little to interest us in the story and the characters, but the pacing of the action more than makes up for this flaw.  There was hardly a dull moment.

While I enjoyed the action, CGI effects, gore, one-liners and witch concepts a lot, I was a little disappointed with director Tommy Wirkola’s (Dead Snow) idea of what a witch is.  These witches looked awesome and used sorcery–great.  What bugged me was that there witches were also super-strong, trained martial arts experts, gymnastic freerunners, and their magic relied on Harry Potter wands.  Disabling a witch by separating her from her wand bothered me (as it did in the Harry Potter series).  But really, these witches are as deadly without their magic as they are with it!  I also thought the rubbery tree limbs they used as flying brooms could have also been handled better with little effort.  Oh, and I hated that Hansel was the first diagnosed diabetic in history and that he pioneered insulin injections to manage it–POINTLESS and not even worth a grin.  But in a humorous, fast-paced action gorefest like this, these are small gripes.

Despite many complaints, this is not the kind of movie where I need to tell you to “turn off your brain” in order to enjoy it.  No, no, no.  Unless you’ve been lobotomized, this movie has no problem letting its viewers know that it doesn’t take itself at all seriously.  That said, Hansel’s type-II diabetes can be forgiven and this movies nonsensically fun combat should be enjoyed.

So enjoy the fun, splattering, witch-detonating gore!

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