HANSEL AND GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS is an unapologetic buttkicker that was unjustly decapitated by critics in 2013, but has found overdue appreciation from the less-constipated. Public hive buzz was once again ahead of the queen bee stings: they ate up the dark horror comedy mayhem to the tune of a $226,300,000 worldwide gross, vanquishing the $50,000,000 layout. Gird yourself for some blood-drenched non-stop action, wicked self-aware humor and a first-rate visual imaging of make-believe medieval mayhem. It’s nasty, it’s all wrong, it doesn’t care and it works.
Norway’s Tommy Wirkola directed the fury and wrote the tongue-in-cheek script which keeps the centuries-old time period and Germanic forest setting of the 1812 Brothers Grimm tale, one whose misty origins may date back to the 1300s (a good time to be from). He updates the brother-sister heroes by giving them modern-style weaponry (with a retro look) and contemporary profanity to toss around between bruising bouts. Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton make for viable action figures as the haunted but hardy duo, squaring off against grand witch ‘Muriel’ (Famke Janssen, relishing her utter evil) and her coterie of yucky followers. In play are a brutish sheriff (Peter Stormare, coarse as he’s ever been), a good white-witch (Pihla Viitala), a game apprentice witch-whacker (Thomas Mann) and a lonesome troll (Derek Mears, voiced by Robin Atkin Downes). Mercy is a few centuries in the future.
Location shooting was done in a forest outside Berlin and around the city of Braunschweig. Art direction, stunts, special effects, costumes and props are all praise-worthy, the music score from Atli Övarsson keeps the pulse going and writer-director Wirkola (Dead Snow) keeps it all compact at 98 minutes.
With Ingrid Bolsø Berdal, Joanna Kulig, Rainer Bock and Monique Ganderton, as the original kid-eating candy-house crone (the script makes Hansel a diabetic due to all the sugar he was forced to consume as her captive). Cinematography by Michael Bonvillain. The dish-it-out and take-it attitude brought it to 37th place in 2013. Normally I’m not too big on these campy gorefests, but this unpretentious stomp mostly did it up right: the wimpus critics were dead wrong. If they sneer, bake ’em.