By Daniel Lammin
10th June 2013

Yes. It is as ridiculous as you expect.

Hansel (Jeremy Renner) and Gretel (Gemma Arterton) have grown up, and thanks to their childhood experiences, have taken on the task of hunting down every witch they can find and sending her to kingdom come. When a small town calls for help as their children keep disappearing, Hansel and Gretel gear up, talk some sass and head out hunting, pitting themselves against the film's Big Bad, Muriel (Famke Janssen).

So let's just get this out of the way - this is an awful film. The filmmaking is shoddy, the effects are bogus and the story is almost completely predictable. But here's the thing... it's also stupidly fun, for all those reasons, plus more. 'Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters' is exactly the guilty pleasure you hope it's going to be. It helps that, in a way, it isn't asking to be taken seriously, especially as there isn't anything you could take seriously anyway. It might be set in a Germanic fairytale past, but the film is full of snappy and profane one-liners that Samuel L. Jackson would be proud of, absolutely ridiculous levels of gore, weapons far too modern and impossible for the time period... they even have insulin to treat diabetes. Insulin! There is nothing about this film that isn't completely bonkers, but it's so unashamedly so that it can't help but have buckets of charm. It also helps that the production design is pretty terrific. The weapons might be illogical, but they look fantastic, especially when coupled with H&G's kick-ass costumes. The sets feel as if they've been ripped straight out of a Grimm fairy tale, just that little bit too stylised to be completely realistic, as well as taking full advantage of the gorgeous Germanic landscape. And the witches... whoever designed these girls had a field day! The creature design is crazy, each one gratuitously over-the-top but brilliantly executed. The finale, featuring a bevy of far-out witch designs, makes the entire film worth it just to see how completely insane they all look. There's also absurd levels of gore and ridiculous violence. Heads explode everywhere, bodies get squished and sliced and crunched every few minutes, all with far more gooey goodness than a human body can logically hold. It's old-school schlock, the kind a young Sam Raimi would probably get a kick out of.


What unifies the film is its performances. Renner and Arterton are having an absolute ball with this film. They know this isn't art house cinema. I suspect they even knew it wasn't going to be very good. But neither seem to care, and instead of delivering an obligatory plod through, they take the film by the reins and ride it for all its worth, with their tongues firmly in their cheeks. How often do you get to beat up and blow up so many monsters and look this good doing it? I dare say Renner shows more star power and charisma here than he's ever shown in any of the Marvel films, and it still confounds me why Arterton isn't a bigger star than she is - she's just so damn good. Janssen seems a bit more at sea with the film, but she gives it a darn good shot, and lets herself go completely, aiming for bigger is always better. Muriel is absolutely nuts, and even if this is a step out of her comfort zone, Janssen looks like she's having a ball doing it. In fact, everyone in this film seems to be having fun, even if none have the charisma (or the diction) the leads do.

This is an awful film. But here's the thing... it's also stupidly fun.

'Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters' is pure guilty-pleasure territory. Most people are probably going to find it too silly to their tastes, but if camp, over-the-top, stupidly violent, gloriously gory, completely illogical, bonkers semi-historical fantasy is your thing, this might be Christmas for you. It certainly was for me.

Paramount's 1080p 2.35:1 transfer betrays the film's modest budget, but still looks terrific. There's something very filmic about this transfer, as if it were one of those great silly fantasy films from the 80s and 90s, but it looks lovely on Blu-ray, bringing out the detail in the design, glorious colours popping out with the gore, and demonstrating just how wonderfully bad the special effects are. The TrueHD 5.1 audio is a bit shaky, though. Apart from the leads, dialogue is quite hard to understand, and might be mixed a bit too low compared to the sound design. Still, the action sequences give the speakers a work-out.

The cut released on Blu-ray is apparently an extended cut, but without having seen it in the cinemas, it's hard to tell what's new and what isn't. I'd expect what's been added is probably more violence and gore, as opposed to any kind of character moments. We also get three featurettes covering the development of the film, its design and Edward the Troll, a rather impressive creature from the film. Not much, but probably about as much as you would expect.

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