Just because fairytales are generally aimed at children, doesn’t mean that adults can’t enjoy them as well. Especially if they are given a new twist, as with Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, the latest big action horror / adventure from Paramount Pictures, by writer / director Tommy Wirkola. Starring Jeremy Renner, Gemma Arterton and Famke Janssen, this film is no fairytale, featuring a couple of kick-ass siblings who give a group of nasty bitch witches more than they expected.
Hansel (Renner) and Gretel (Arterton), who survived being left by their parents in the forest as prey for the local witch, are now grown up. Having sworn to rid the world of the pestilence of witchcraft and its practitioners, it now seems the duo may have met their match in the form of an evil incarnation called Muriel (Janssen), who is determined to finish the duo off – permanently.
Though there have been attempts in the past to update classic fairytales, these films have often erred on the side of caution like in the glossy adventure Snow White and the Huntsman (2012) based on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, or gone for a fully sexualised adult interpretation as with the amalgamation of Alice in Wonderland and Little Red Riding Hood in Jaromil Jires’ Valerie and her Week of Wonders (1970). Here however Wirkola has taken the essence of Hansel and Gretel, keeping the basics of the original story, but showing us what became of the brother and sister once they grew up and had to fend for themselves after defeating the witch and being left as orphans.
Hansel and his sister are now leather clad, gun toting mercenaries who, for a price, will rid your town of witchcraft (that popular blight of medieval Europe). Which is really the basis for a story, which revolves around little more than the duo chasing and despatching a surprisingly young and agile group of crones led by head witch Muriel (a particularly alluring Janssen). However, what could have been a rather weak plot for a ninety minute film, holds your attention due to its sheer exuberance and an eye watering array of machine guns and weaponry (the real stars of the film) at Hansel and Gretel’s disposal. As for the witch’s chosen mode of transport – though it’s still the faithful old broom, here it’s a streamlined version cut to the bare minimum providing a speed and manoeuvrability which would make Hogwarts’ quidditch team envious.
Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters may be a load of hocus-pocus. However should I ever stumble upon a witch’s coven at the dead of night, I know who I’d want gunning for my team.