Despite the recent trend of making fairy tales into movies (Red Riding Hood, Snow White and the Huntsman, Jack the Giant Slayer), it’s not intuitive that this fairy tale should be a movie, but there it is. Abandoned by their parents as children, Hansel and Gretel kill the witch in the candy house and grow up to be witch bounty hunters for fun, profit, and revenge.
Set in a generic medieval Europe, we see the siblings’ early career in a neat montage of woodcut scenes and newspaper clippings as they travel from town to town killing witches (trolls cost extra) and collecting rewards. In this world, witches are incredibly fast and strong, but Hansel and Gretel are total badasses and can handle anything thrown their way. Until, that is, they reach the town of Augsburg, where there is a veritable “witch plague.” Led by an uber “grand witch”, the local witches are gearing up for a major dark ritual, and have been stealing so many children that sketches of the missing are tied to glass milk bottles. It begins to look as if the witch hunters have met their match.
The movie is better than its Rotten Tomatoes score, which hovers in the low teens, but it’s not fantastic. Part of problem is that the tone is uneven, and the movie can’t quite decide what genre it belongs to. Mostly it takes itself seriously, but there are intermittent campy bits that don’t really fit. Parts are so gory it feels like splatter horror, but there’s not really enough realistic blood and guts to put it in that category; it’s ridiculously violent, but mostly in a cartoonish way. It’s an action film, but sometimes the pace slows to a crawl, as in a completely gratuitous bathing scene.
Overall, it’s a reasonably enjoyable diversion. The acting is okay, special effects are okay, there’s nothing horribly bad. It just feels like it could have been more.