Sad Hill Media

Film & Lesser Arts with Will Ross, Devan Scott, & Daniel Jeffery.

by Will Ross

If your film takes place in a medieval fantasy world and features shotguns, record players, and defibrillators, don’t expect your audience to take it seriously, and for heaven’s sakes, don’t take it seriously yourself. Wanting it both ways leaves you with neither, and Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters is guilty of this and many other halfway starts and stops in opposing directions.

The famed fairy tale siblings, after their famous story of orphaning, kidnapping, and candy-witch killing plays out in the prologue, dedicate their lives to killing witches. Fifteen years later, the now-esteemed witch hunters come upon a town that has suffered 11 child abductions, where the sheriff (Peter Stormare) accuses a woman of witchcraft. Hansel (Jeremy Renner) and Gretel (Gemma Arterton) rush to the woman’s defense, point out that witches always show rot on their face and in their teeth, and with the mayor’s aid, they free the innocent woman and cow the incompetent sheriff. Except that later it turns out there is a kind of witch that can disguise her face, and the hunters already knew that, so why would they let this one go?

The subplot of the sheriff, a half-assed villain jockeying for control of the town, is inexplicably dropped halfway through. The children likewise seem unimportant. There is almost no perceptible motivation or desires for any of the characters, nor dramatic justifications for conceits like Hansel’s candy-caused diabetes; the film just lurches from one shapeless witch fight to the next.

It’s all so goddamn stupid, and that’s a shame for some of the more-than-able crew: the production design somehow manages to create lived-in sets and props that do not visually clash with the modern technology as much as they could (although no one could convincingly shoehorn in the gatling gun that shows up at the 11th hour). Effects-wise, a minor troll character is an animatronic marvel; even with his limited range of facial expressions, he’s far more convincing than the vast majority of CGI characters in recent years. Otherwise, it’s all incongruous misfires.

The film doesn’t even know what to do with its gore and violence, so gleefully played up in marketing. In one scene, a character is showered with the blood and gory chunks of an innocent man who combusts all over him, and reacts with boyish wonder. Later, he witnesses a decapitation and almost throws up. That inconsistency is all over the bloodletting: restraint and abandon alternate meaninglessly.

And still, all of these half-baked characters and anachronisms could have been fun, if the film wasn’t so insistently joyless. To work, a schlockfest needs to be just that: an embracing and gleeful celebration of schlock. Instead, Hansel and Gretel is an empty and confusing experience.


Post a Comment