Last year, we saw two bizarre re-imaginings of the classic Snow White fairy tale: the atrocious Mirror Mirror and the dark, underrated Snow White and the Huntsman. While the former was considered a flop by many, the latter was a surprise hit, and now, after many schedule changes and shuffling, this year sees a couple other dark visions of other classic fairy tales.
Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters is one such movie that had a difficult time finding a release date, but has now officially been released. While the film serves more of a hypothetical situation than a true re-envisioning, Hansel and Gretel is a dark, amusing, violent tale of mystery and action that is visually stunning and highly entertaining.
Many years after escaping the clutches of the fabled witch in the candy house, full-grown siblings Hansel (Jeremy Renner) and Gretel (Gemma Arterton) have made a name for themselves as witch hunters across the land, not just for the sheer number of witches killed, but for the inexplicable immunity to malevolent spells. Once arriving in the small town of Augsburg, the siblings discover the Blood Moon is coming, which will allow witches to gain ultimate power -- explaining why children are starting to go missing in large numbers. While investigating the disappearances, Hansel and Gretel have a run in with grand witch Muriel (Famke Janssen), who may hold the key to their mysterious past.
Writer/director Tommy Wirkola (Dead Snow) brings a dark, humorous spin to the Grimm fairy tale. Along with first-time screenwriter Dante Harper, Wirkola uses fast, sharp dialogue and Tarantino-esque violence to create a film that could easily create a whole new cinematic subgenre: adults-only fairy tales.
While Hansel and Gretel is entertaining on its own merits, what gives the film that special edge is the added depths the story goes. Bizarre twists, like trolls serving witches and Hansel having diabetes, create intelligent turns in what could have been another brainless action film. Sure, the film does look like a gory, foul-mouthed remake of Van Helsing, but the well-written script and amazing cinematography more than make up for the fact the titular characters are using modern weaponry in a pre-electricity time period. Of course, if you're going to get hung up on something like that, this is clearly not the movie for you.
FINAL VERDICT: Though the film certainly has its faults, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters is certainly a game-changer, proving that re-imaginings of Grimm stories don't have to be awful. The film is wildly entertaining, blending ultra-violence and humor to spin the yarn, while the deadpan performances by Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton are solid, ensuring this fractured fairy tale is well worth your time.