Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

A night with Hansel & Gretel

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Long sleepless night?
Tired of writing?
Watch a movie, then review it.
So I went and checked out Hansel & Gretel – Witch Hunters, a 2013 movie1 I had missed back then, and that, I said to myself, can’t be worse that that Brothers Grimm movie.
I was somewhat right – and here I am to offer a quick-and-dirty review.

The basic premise: Hansel & Gretel, having been abandoned in the wood and having killed the witch, grow up to become Jemma Arterton and Jeremy Renner, bounty hunters that buy their clothes at Gap (or so it seems – lotsa black leather), act real cool and badass, and specialize in hunting witches. A plague of disappearing children brings them back to their neck in the woods.

hansel-and-gretelThe movie is played as a straight action feature, with lots of action and fight sequences, and a lot of violent, unpleasant details.
I read somewhere the director wanted to do a Tarantino-esque movie, but I found in the end the insistence on violence and gore to be tiresome. In particular, there’s a lengthy sequence in which Gretel (Gemma Arterton) is physically abused, beaten, and is about to be gang-raped by a bunch of secondary characters. One may appreciate the willingness to “go brutal”, but the same situation could have been handles with a lot more class and restraint, and made even scarier and disturbing.
But classy or restrained, Hansel & Gretel – Witch Hunters is not.
And it’s a pity, because the premise is pretty neat.

hansel-and-gretel-witch-hunters-famke-janssen1

There’s a lot of stuff to like in the movie – the weird retro-tech of the hunter’s weapons, the snappy dialog, the nice supporting cast (Edward the troll being a personal favorite). While I do not find neither Arterton nor Renner particularly charming, they are excellent in their roles – while it’s a pity to see Famke Jannsen sleepwalk through her role (which she took, apparently, to pay her mortgage).
The action scenes are fine, and the witches are a nasty bunch that reminded me of the creatures in the old Jack the Giant Killer – not just practitioners of the dark arts, but really inhuman creatures.

hansel-and-gretel-witch-hunters-exclusive-pictures11-900x675

On the down side, as already mentioned, there’s the excess violence (but that’s a matter of personal tastes) and a certain emptiness of the plot – the big reveal is predictable, the final showdown unsurprising, even the death of one key character is done by the numbers. There’s a lot of explosions, which are somewhat… blah.
Also, I’ll admit I did not care much for the music – but once again, that’s a matter of personal tastes.

At_Desert_Witch's_house

The after-credits sequence – that is pretty neat, all things considered – promises more of the same in future features, and indeed the movie plays as a big-budget pilot for a Netflix series. One I might even like to watch.
But so far nothing has come from the would-be franchise.

In the end the movie is a good time-waster, and it is a lot better than that Brothers Grimm movie, but let’s admit it – that’s not a major feat – and it gives the ugly Hugh Jackman vehicle, Van Helsing a run for its money (despite that one featuring Kate Beckinsale in a corset). The three movies might be set in more or less the same world, together with the Russian Viy or the old Hammer classic, Captain Kronos.

A great inspiration if you happen to want to play a game of Leagues of Gothic Horror or have a go at Savage Worlds – Rippers (or, indeed, the  old Ravenloft), the movie is worth a look on a lonesome autumn night, but does not keep all of its promises, and it feels somewhat empty despite its over-abundance of good ideas.


  1. interestingly enough, there’s TWO Hansel & Gretel movies from 2013, the other being a mockbuster thing shot on video and distributed on DVD. 

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

2 thoughts on “A night with Hansel & Gretel

  1. Yeah, you and I are sitting in the same pew on this one. HANSEL & GRETEL is what I call a TV Series Pilot On Steroids. It does indeed play very much like a set-up for a TV series but it’s too grim, too unrelenting in it’s mean-spiritedness. I can’t even say that it’s a good time-waster if you can’t find anything else on Netflix to watch because there is a whole of better movies to waste your time with.

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    • The violence and overall nastiness is what put me off in the end. I still think the premise is good, and the idea of gearing up the leads with weird gadgets is fun. But beyond that… bah.
      And I have to agree – there’s a lot of better stuff out there, on Netflix and elsewhere. But I was curious, and we all know what curiosity did to the cat…

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