I am finally getting around to another witch film review. This entire project was suppose to end on October 31 2013 but has lingered on well into 2014. I am making no further promises on the exact finish date other than I will reach 31 at some point in the next century.
Getting to the review…
Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (2013) may have been one of the worst witch movies ever made. It may be one of the worst movies ever made.
The Paramount film follows in a long line of fairy-tale spin-offs that explore the darker depths of the traditional fantasy narrative (Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland 2010; Snow White and the Huntsman 2012) Unfortunately the studio missed the mark – any mark – with this one.
IMDB categorizes Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters as action/horror/fantasy. That is a perfect description because the film doesn’t know what it wants to be. It opens with the classic tale of two children lost in the woods. In this re-visioning the children are cast out by their parents in order to save their lives. After the classic witch encounter, the story moves into the “ever after” in which Hansel is a gritty Rambo-esque cowboy with diabetes. Gretel is the Terminator‘s Sarah Conner in a bustier and black leather who, like all good fairy tale girls, befriends a kindly woodland troll. As for the witches, they are flying magical zombies.
The film seems to have no clear self-identify. Is the film really Hansel & Gretel? Or is it Hocus Pocus (1993)? Or The Matrix (1999)? Or Shrek (2001)? The Walking Dead (2013)? Brother Where Art Thou (2000)? Or maybe the film just wanted to be Die Hard (1988) set in Bavaria? The broom chase is reminiscent of the biker chase in Return of the Jedi (1983). If that isn’t enough, the “good witch” is named Mina, a reference to Bram Stoker’s classic novel, Dracula.
If all of these cinematic choices were referential winks for the well-worn film enthusiast, than the winking part was left out. Or maybe it was blocked by the bustier or the troll.
By the end the entire experience felt like disjointed scraps of weirdness pinned together with iron nails and covered in a black gossamer veil. Even the anachronistic elements, which could have given the film a fantastical “steampunk” aesthetic, just seem laughable.
Let me cut the filmmakers some slack. The concept was a good even if the execution failed. What does happens to Hansel and Gretel after their traumatic experience with the “evil” woodland witch? This question delves into the contemporary exploration of the underlying psychology lurking within the fairy tale itself. Nearly getting eaten by a hag in the woods must have left some type of impression or scar on the children. Unfortunately that depth of psychological discovery doesn’t lend itself to a film that can be defined as Natural Born Killers (1994) meets Witches (1990) meets World War Z (2013).
Personally I would have liked to see the story reversed. What if the kids were terrible brats born into a culture of cruelty? They tie up their nanny and run away to find new horrific fun torturing animals in the wood. After a few hours, they get bored and lost. After spending a night scared and alone, the children stumble upon the home of a lonely crone who, long ago, escaped to this reclusive life far from the treacheries of an amoral, self-indulgent, gluttonous society. In the freedom of isolation, she adorns her cottage with whimsical color and “candy” in order to feed the forest animals. The little house is a bright spot in a dark and hateful world. When the selfish little children finally arrive at her door, they immediately begin to consume its beauty and treasures like selfish little beasts they are. After awhile the witch catches them and beckons them inside to teach a lesson….
How it is written from there depends on who’s making the movie. Does the witch win? Do the kids change and live with the witch forever? Or do the kids win and burn the crone? The answer lies in whether the movie is a dark social commentary or a hopeful one?
Hansel & Gretal: Witch Killers is worth watching if you’d like to see what not to do as a filmmaker. In order to know what’s good, you must see what is bad. You also better see it before Paramount releases the sequel sometime in the next year.
Day #1: Oz: The Great and Powerful
Day #2: Haxan
Day #3: The Princess and the Frog
Day #4: City of the Dead
Day #5: Beautiful Creatures
Day #6: The Witches
Day #7: Wicked
Day #8: Bell Book & Candle
Day #9: American Horror Story: Coven
Day #10: Black Death (Guest Reviewer: John W. Morehead)
Day #11: Witches of East End
Day #12: Nightmare Before Christmas
Day #13: Scooby Doo: The Witch’s Ghost
Day #14: Hocus Pocus
Day #15: The Wiz
Day #16: Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Day #17: Wicker Man (Guest Reviewer: Link)
Day #18: The Witches of Eastwick
Day #19: Bedknobs and Broomsticks
Day #20: Harry Potter and the 8 Movies
Day #21: So I Married a Witch
Day #22: The Mists of Avalon (Guest Reviewer: Crystal Blanton)
Day #23: Disney’s Sleeping Beauty
Day #24: Excalibur (Guest Reviewer: Virginia Chandler)
Day #25: Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe