The Brother Grimm could never have imagined what Hansel and Gretel would get up to. The children of a poor woodcutter who saved themselves by outwitting a cannibalistic witch living deep in the forest are all grown up and how. In this dark and twisted spin on the much-loved fairy tale (who hasn’t day-dreamed about the house of cake and confectionary?), the siblings are bounty hunters working hard to rid the world of wicked witches. Directed by Tommy Wirkola, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters stars Jeremy Renner, Gemma Arterton, Famke Janssen, Peter Stormare, Derek Mears and Thomas Mann.
Doing away with the evil witch at the “edible” house seems to have given Hansel (Renner) and Gretel (Arterton) a taste for witches’ blood. Fifteen years later, the duo, still haunted by their memories has grown into a pair of vengeful bounty hunters dedicated to wiping out witches. They have, over the years, honed their perfection in tracking and taking down the cackling black hats. The fact that harmful spells and curses don’t seem to work well against them keeps them going.
That’s when the Mayor of Augsburg, a town somewhere in Germany, approaches the brother and sister, and seeks their help to rid the town and nearby forests of a malevolent sorceress (Janssen). Among her many evil plans is sacrificing many children kidnapped from the town at a witches’ gathering to mark the Blood Moon night in two days’ time. But the going won’t be easy for Hansel and Gretel. Apart from the witches, they will have to deal with the brutal Sheriff Berringer (Stormare), who has since taken power in Augsburg and is conducting his own indiscriminate witch hunt. Against a coven that seems invincible, Hansel and Gretel are hunters who soon become the hunted. They must draw on all their reserves, burning and beheading like never before, in order to bring back the children and ensure the town’s safety.
Norwegian director Wirkola, who earlier helmed Kill Buljo (2007) and horror comedy Dead Snow (2009), makes his English language debut with a film that’s all “blood and gore and action, all the stuff that I love”. He has termed this film “an action movie, with horror elements and some dark humour”. Wirkola has worked the 3D angle very strongly. The film, to be released in 3D, 2D and IMAX theatres, is all about “in-your-face” action – bullets and arrows whiz towards you, weapons are shoved into your face, and terrifying spectres hurl themselves at you. Works well for a while, but then ends up giving you a headache!
Jeremy Renner, best known for his performance in The Hurt Locker, has had a more than decent run in the last couple of years. But with The Avengers, Mission: Impossible 4 and The Bourne Legacy to his credit, he deserved better than this. So did Bond girl Arterton, who was once nominated for a Bafta in the rising star category.
Classic-tale, new-twist films have become popular in recent years, with many directors opting to remake their version of popular tales. Be it Mirror Mirror, Snow White and Huntsman, or the Angelina Jolie-led Maleficent, old-world fairy tales seem to be fodder for new-age cinema. But do blood, gore, kitschy 3D effects and a cheesy spin revive an old tale? We think not.