Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters DVD Review
Written and directed by Tommy Wirkola
2013, Region 2 (PAL), 88 minutes, Rated 15 (UK)
DVD released on 24th June 2013
Jeremy Renner as Hansel
Gemma Arterton as Gretel
Famke Janssen as Muriel
Pihla Viitala as Mina
Derek Mears as Edward
I must admit, when I first heard about Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters I raised a cynical eyebrow and let out a small sigh of exasperation that Hollywood was again putting out a seemingly soulless, horror-themed, cash-in to appeal to mainstream audiences. With that in mind I was prepared to unleash vitriol when the review copy came in, but damn if it didn’t sucker-punch me, and I actually ended up enjoying it. I know. I’m a bad person.
Chisel-chinned Jeremy Renner is Hansel and British hottie Gemma Arterton is his sister Gretel. In the opening scenes of the film, they’re shown as children in the familiar setting of the original Grimm fairy tale, abandoned in a forest and finding a house made of candy that’s home to an evil witch. After being captured by the old hag, the kids manage to escape and push her into the oven, burning her alive – satisfying eyeball pops and everything. Ironically, this is one of their more effective witch killings.
Leaving behind the Grimm story, the film follows their adult life as mercenaries for hire, ridding small towns and villages of their supernatural problems (not unlike the werewolf hunters in the recent Werewolf: The Beast Among Us). Little do they know that their latest contract in the town of Augsburg will be their most difficult as the local coven (led by a smoldering hot Famke Janssen) is preparing for the ritual of the Blood Moon, a time in the lunar cycle that will give the witches ultimate power over the earth.
Considering that, as a pair of 10-year olds, Hansel and Gretel managed to overpower a witch and flame grill her to ultra-crispy, they spend an awful lot of time in this film getting their asses kicked. While they’re both immune to spells and curses, they’re still susceptible to a good kicking and the members of Augsburg’s coven don’t hesitate to dish out the beatings with regularity. Fortunately for the twins, they have an array of weaponry available to them that usually damages the witches with satisfyingly gruesome results.
I’ll admit to being surprised at the sheer amount of blood shed during this film; I’d expected a reasonably tame affair, something in the realms of Van Helsing, but Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters really ups the bar in this respect. Especially once a certain troll named Edward (Derek Mears) starts his rampage, squashing heads and generally causing bloody mayhem everywhere. While a lot of the blood work is surely CGI, it doesn’t have that really fake look that I’ve come to expect from big-budget productions trying to lay on the gore.
For a mainstream audience, which is surely the target for this kind of film, it may even be a bit much. For a horror crowd, it’s definitely something you can throw on and watch when you don’t need to use too much brain power. It’s completely aware of the type of film it is, and doesn’t show any pretence of trying to be anything it’s not. Maybe I’m damaged goods, maybe I’ve spent too long watching horror from every point on the scale, but there are certain times when something like this just hits the spot. I’m not proud, but Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters is damn good fun.
Video and Audio:
As to be expected from a big-budget production, the audio and video are suitably impressive. The main feature is presented in 2.40:1, with a 5.1 surround track that gives the speakers a good workout. There's a little imbalance between loud action and quieter dialogue, but overall nothing to worry about.
The DVD version offers only the theatrical cut of the film, plus a documentary The Witching Hours. The Blu-ray goes a step further, presenting the unrated cut of the film, plus extra documentaries Reinventing Hansel & Gretel and Meet Edward the Troll. It's a no-brainer really, get the Blu-ray.