CINEMA SECOND CHANCES: 'Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters'
Why? Why isn’t Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters at cult classic status yet? I happened to catch this perfectly flawed film one weekend morning on FX (or was it FXX? Or FX Movies? Stop making more channels, FX!) and I went from saying “this is stupid” to “this is brilliant!”
Helmed by German director Tommy Wirkola, who is best known for directing the Nazi zombie horror comedies Dead Snow and Dead Snow: Red vs. Dead, this movie was not made to be taken seriously. I mean, Will Ferrell and pre-Big Short jokey-joke writer Adam McKay produced it. The movie is as ridiculous as you’d expect, and at no point was I not entertained. I remember the trailers a few years ago, which I’ve provided below, and was convinced this movie was just some forgettable action flick I’d have no interest in. I think it’s safe for me to now say that this movie’s failure was a product of marketing.
It completely misses what the movie s going for in terms of tone, style, and humor, but if you can’t tell by the title, the movie asks that age old question of, “What if, after Hansel and Gretel killed the witch that tried to eat them, they started hunting and killing other witches out of the goodness of their heart?” On top of answering that, it also paints an oddly sad feminist picture about the nature of movies and representation today and throughout history.
Some spoilers ahead...
Basically pretty early on, Hansel and Gretel are separated during a skirmish over a witch jailbreak (just watch this, please). When they split off, we see how different the adventure for the man and the woman in movies can be. Gretel has interactions with a number of creepy dudes and a troll. One even nurses her back to health and then contemplates long and hard about grabbing her boobs while she’s passed out. Before he can act, she wakes up, brushes the creep away, and basically tells him to fudge pack himself (he really doesn’t deserve a thank you).
Hansel, on the other hand, only meets one woman, who happens to be a drop-dead gorgeous gal who can’t wait to skinny dip in a pool with him to heal all of his wounds. Within what feels like must be the first hour of meeting each other, they, of course, have sex, despite the fact it has nothing to do with the plot and we don’t see any of it. All we get is a zip-up of Jeremy Renner’s pants and the look of a satisfied attractive female. (Gretel, off somewhere else, is beaten to a bloody pulp as this occurs.)
Renner’s starring role brings up another point this movie makes a joke out of through casting -- he was in his forties during the making of this film. At 15 years older than his Gretel co-star Gemma Arterton, there is no physical way he could’ve been her twin or around the same age as her when they killed the witch who left a trail of breadcrumbs for them as children. Meanwhile, the main villain of the film is played by the beautiful Famke Janssen, who is not even 10 years Renner’s senior and is implied to be around the same age as Hansel and Gretel’s mother. (Holy crap does this movie have layers to it.)
Not just that, but many of the scenes in general are directed poorly. There are many times that we have no idea where anybody is when watching as the audience. For example, it may feel like a character is to the left side of the room, but then a cut happens and they’re revealed to not only not be on the left side of the room but in a completely different room entirely. This makes many of the action scenes jarring and the numerous amounts of these production flaws makes it feel like a total joke (that or I’m losing my freaking mind… either way, watch this movie).
I really don’t want to give anything else away, so like I’ve already written, just watch it. It’s streaming on the FX app or you can get it for around three bucks on Amazon video. Either way, get some like-minded friends together and you should all be in for a treat. I guarantee one of your friends will hate it the whole time and that’ll actually add to the experience.