LAKE OCONEE — “Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters”
Rated R for strong fantasy horror violence and gore, brief sexuality/nudity and language.
“Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters”, in 3D or 2D, is not for children and is weird. What made it weird for me is that within an eight-minute stretch of dialog between Hansel and Gretel, they use the word “weird” three times. Also, Hansel and Gretel curse like sophomores who have just discovered the joy of profanity and declare independence from the tyranny of expected behaviors of characters in fairy tales. And they use martial arts and steam punk artillery to dispatch nasty looking witches with the expected non-humanistic indifference of dwellers of the 19th century. Hansel actually tells us that “the only good witch is a dead witch.” By the way, Gretel is a liberated woman fighting the hags shoulder to shoulder. In fact, the final scene of the film made me think the next iteration of this franchise might be: Hansel and Gretel Go Witch Hunting along the Stage Coach Trail.
The film starts out with a very brief telling of the Hansel and Gretel story. Children left (not lost) in the woods, find a candy house; eat without asking; trapped by witch; and then: the ol’ pop her in the oven. Once the witch is turned cackle-y brown, we begin the rest-of-the-story. “Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters.”
Hansel and Gretel become killers of witches going from German village-to-village treating one and all with “teenager” disdain although they are most certainly older than that demographic. Worry not, you new teens, because one of your own is featured using such deep phrases as “awesome” and acting the geek without too much shame which tells me who the filmmakers are targeting.
I actually broke with my usual policy and watched this one in 3D---mostly due to schedule restrictions. I am a little glad I did even though we, once again, had to see a lot of scenes filmed in dark rooms and outside in the moonlight. The film is schlocky and proudly so and the 3D was meant to be as cheesy-impressive. It is not done poorly; it is just placed here and there to make us go---“Jeepers, that was close!” (And by “jeepers” I mean to imply that the film is just that: a mixture of childhood wonder and immature lust of the violent and vulgarity.)
Too bad the filmmakers didn’t go a little further in the titillation department. This makes me think it was almost aiming for the crowd that hasn’t just yet experienced the hormonal invasion. Just a little of the cleavage (top and bottom) and a quick glance of mammaries and a scene of post (probably) canoodling. I think this film would have been more enjoyable if it had gone "adult" fairy tale rather than computer game cinema for nerdteens. It is caught in that rather awkward stage of adolescence: clumsily seeking respect, popularity and a place at the table where the cool kids sit. The plot has a case of arrested development.
Special effects are good enough but overall the film comes off a bit too “computer gameish” and falls too short of really being a cult classic of a twisted fairy tale it should have been. It is caught in a sort of target audience limbo. I am surprised to write this, but the “R” just wasn’t “R” enough; it was barely enough to warrant it; the producers should have toned it down for the pre-teen set or the sexiness for the “newly adult” crowd. I vote for the latter. The sets were interesting and the use of a troll was fun but it wasn’t bold or fresh enough to be a naughty, unexpurgated, modern day riff of the Grimm tale.
Instead it came off a little like Junior High; a bit of a disappointment and only a feeble hope of better things to come.
“Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters” gets two and a half bow ties out of five.