Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters

Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters

Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters
2 stars
Rated R for strong fantasy horror violence and gore, brief sexuality/nudity and language
Available on: DVD, Blu-ray, Blu-ray 3D digital download and on demand

Hollywood must sense a demand for horror movies that place a supernatural spin on beloved figures because we’re in the midst of a trend. The past 12 months brought us “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” and “Warm Bodies,” a zombified version of “Romeo and Juliet.” Now, writer-director Tommy Wirkola has given us “Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters,” a black comedy supposing the title characters not only escaped a witch as children, but decided to hunt them as adults.

The premise is silly, and Wirkola doesn’t even attempt to make the movie smarter than its title. Instead, he embraces the wackiness, making the adult Hansel (Jeremy Renner) and Gretel (Gemma Arterton) full-on superheroes. They are immune to the spells and curses of witches, giving them a considerable advantage over average mortals. This also allows them to make a reasonable living as witch-killing mercenaries.

The latest client to hire the fairy tale duo is the mayor of a small town where children are being abducted. Not long into their investigation, Hansel and Gretel discover that the kidnappings are part of a huge plot that could forever tip the balance of power between witches and humans. This increases the stakes, but not by much. The film’s real selling points are action, special effects and gore.

During the course of the movie, many characters die, often under horrifyingly bloody circumstances. In other words, this version of “Hansel & Gretel” isn’t for children. It is difficult, however, to argue that the movie is for mature audiences because older viewers tend to value things like smarts and restraint. “Hansel & Gretel” has neither.

Wirkola attempts to balance his over-the-top gore with gags, but the jokes often fall flat. The characters aren’t very compelling either, and that’s a problem in a film built around action. After all, death-defying stunts are most inspiring when viewers care whether the players live or die.

The DVD release has no extra features. The Blu-ray and Blu-ray 3D releases have theatrical and unrated cuts of the film plus several making-of shorts.

By Forrest Hartman

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