Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters stars Gemma Arterton (Quantum of Solace, Clash of the Titans) and Jeremy Renner (The Avengers, The Bourne Legacy). Plus, one of my favorite character actors, Peter Stormare (Brothers Grimm, among many others). The original story was published in 1812, but with the delightful mish-mash of technology in this adaptation, it is hard to place it in time.
In the Grimm’s fairy tale, Hansel and Gretel’s evil stepmother convinces their father to abandon them in the woods to avoid starvation. As mean as this sounds, the Grimm boys actually softened the original tale for their collection. Pretty much any time an evil stepmother is blamed, the real culprit was actually the birth mother in the oral tradition.
They find their way back once by leaving a trail of pebbles, but stepmom gets wise. The second time, she doesn’t give them time to gather pebbles. All they have is a little bread, and their trail is eaten by birds. So, they wind up at the iconic house made of candy. They defeat the witchy homeowner through cunning, and when they find their way back to their own dwelling the wicked stepmom has died of unknown causes. Luckily, the kids found gems at the witches’ abode so their money problems are over, and it ends happily ever after. (Except for the witch and the stepmother, of course, but these stories never end well for them, do they?)
In the 2013 movie’s version of events, the kids are left in the forest by their birth parents for an unknown reason. They still defeat their “hostess of the grossest” but that’s all just the prologue. And discover during their struggle they should “1. never go into a house made of candy. And 2. if you are going to kill a witch, set her ass on fire.” H&G also survive their encounter only because they are mysteriously immune to spells, but they don’t know why.
As adults, the sibs go on to become professional witch hunters. They are summoned to the town of Augsburg to investigate a spate of disappearances. The local witches are a-brewing a plot to make themselves immune to fire, and they need 12 kids to do it. In order to save the day and find out what really happened to their parents, they must face the Grand Witch Muriel (Famke Janssen) and defeat her before she can carry out her dastardly plot.
What I Thought of Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters
I put this movie into the same dark-but-fun category as Van Helsing (review to come later this month!) and Brothers Grimm. But it definitely has a higher gore-factor, so if you are squeamish, you might want to give this one a pass. The non-blood violence can also be disturbing, such as when Gretel is nearly raped by some townspeople. (Don’t worry, they don’t succeed, but it can still be hard to stomach.)
Of course, being creepy is also part of what makes it a perfect Halloween movie. It’s a great intersection of creep and campiness, and I’d certainly recommend it for the strong-stomached among you.