Walking into Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, I can honestly say my expectations were lower than the Mariana Trench. After all, it looked like another Van Helsing, which I fell asleep during watching in the theater. Imagine my surprise when I not only managed to stay awake throughout the film but I also had a pretty damn good time during it as well!
The basic plot of the film is that a grown up Hansel (Jeremy Renner) and Gretel (Gemma Arteron) are a pair of witch hunters who travel the land taking jobs fighting and killing witches and other supernatural baddies. They arrive in a town where several children have been kidnapped and since all signs point to the culprits being witches the dynamic duo are hired.
What follows is a very straightforward story, one that doesn’t require any strenuous thought at all. In fact, you can probably shut off the vast majority of your brain, sit back, and just enjoy the ride because the story is really that simple. The dialogue is incredibly basic with almost no supernatural jargon (does anyone else think it ridiculous when characters speak in “fake” languages?), and yet there are some genuinely laugh-worthy moments.
Aside from a few jarring cuts to new scenes, the only real negative thing I have to say about this movie is that there is a rather glaring plot hole (SPOILER ALERT) in that they don’t realize that this job is in their hometown. They get quite surprised when they stumble across their old home and yet nothing in the beginning of the film (which shows the Hansel and Gretel/Gingerbread house story) indicates that there was any memory loss whatsoever. It’s rather odd and had me scratching my head a bit.
However, the movie offers a lot of positive qualities as well. The use of practical FX is fantastic, including a great deal of gore, some really nice witch makeup, and pretty awesome looking troll named Edward (Derek Mears). The set design is also well done although admittedly just over the top, giving everything a fairytale quality (which is rather appropriate). There is limited but necessary CGI when it comes to the set design, usually reserved for vistas and extreme wide shots.
The action sequences, of which there are many, are crisp, fun, and feel exciting and also allow for a good bit of physical comedy.
With movies like this, it’s interesting trying to decipher if they are horror or not. There isn’t a single scare in this film or even a moment where I felt any sense of suspense or impending fear. However, the visuals and atmosphere practically ooze everything a horror fan could want.
At the start of the movie, I was expecting a waste of my time. By the middle, I found myself with a grin on my face. By the end, I was hoping that there would be a sequel. Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters isn’t a movie meant to scare or make you think but it is one of the most entertaining and enjoyable movies of its kind that I’ve seen in years.
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