Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters Review


Director Tommy Wirkola attempts to retell a classic tale with an R-rated over-the-top twist added onto it and the result is a complete abomination to the medium of film. Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters is an uninspired mess of a film that tries to get by on its charm (which it has none of) and gore, but really only skates on actress Gemma Arterton and her ability to both look good in tight leather and to inject the film’s many dry moments with spots of questionable humor. Everything else (and I do mean everything else) is below the standard, even if the standard is that of a shitty B movie.

Hansel (Jeremy Renner) and Gretel (Gemma Arterton) are two sibling witch killers. You should know the tale and by this point, but if you don’t it’s a fairly simple one. They were abandoned as children and they stumbled into a witch’s house. It was at that house that they realized their true calling for the world, which is to hunt and kill witches. They’re good at their job, but most townspeople think that they only bring bad, so they try and stay out of the spotlight when possible.

In this particular telling we have the two working for a local town to bring down an especially evil witch (played with spotty flavor by Famke Janssen) before it’s too late and she becomes too powerful to stop. Or some shit like that.

Seriously, that’s how lacking this film really is. Even the basic plot line of the film becomes smudged in one’s own lack of interest, because there’s simply nothing to fill out the film’s short running time. Director Tommy Wirkola has been praised for his Nazi zombie film Dead Snow, which I haven’t completely watched yet, and taking that out of the equation I had absolutely no expectations for this film.

There was once talk about a PG-13 cut getting released instead of an R, which would have made this film even more unbearable. The R-rating works if only slightly, because Wirkola at least knows to make the film gory and campy, but for some reason the effects range from impressive pieces of practical work to unfinished-looking CGI messes. Why Wirkola splits up the film’s shining moments is a question that might come back to budgeting reasons.


To really understand just how bad Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters is you must focus your attention on star Jeremy Renner and his performance that will surely go down as one of the worst in his career. In this film he manages to suck almost all of the life out of the film and into his black-hole-like vortex that drains any emotions from all scenes. Any performance in this film is overshadowed by Renner’s inability to emote the simplest expression. Whenever co-star Gemma Arterton tries to lighten the mood with a throwaway joke Renner steps in and absorbs the comedy and spits out a facial expression that can best be described as waiting for an oil change. He just looks flat out bored and impatient, waiting for everything to end.

The supporting cast never manages to outweigh Renner’s hack performance. As I said earlier Gemma Arterton tries her best to look good, kick ass and occasionally tell a joke, but she’s running on fumes by the end. Peter Stormare goes from wacky and fun in The Last Stand to pointlessly cast and rarely used in this one. There’s also Famke Janssen playing the evil witch with a confused and rarely threatening look on her face. Derek Mears gets credit for playing a troll though, because that’s just funny and totally something that should make a film like this stick.

Do not see this film in 3D. The post-conversion clearly tried enhancing the fighting “pop-out” bits, but the transfer largely fails because it never serves a purpose. I spent 60% of the film with my glasses off and I still could make out everything clear as day. Also, the film takes place a lot during the nighttime and that’s just a recipe for disaster with 3D.

At the end of the day I’m still left questioning who should really get all of the blame for making Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters one of the worst theatrical experiences I’ve had to sit through in the past couple years. Does Tommy Wirkola get the blame for failing to make the story an actual adventure worth paying attention to? Or should Jeremy Renner get some credit for taking what should have been a fun popcorn flick and turning it into a lifeless bore?

I blame both the filmmaker and his leading star, because together they make for a real team of witches from hell that I’d gladly hire Gemma Arterton to hunt down with a double-sided (or whatever) crossbow. Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters is not a fun piece of R-rated camp that you should be telling all your friends about. Skip this and see The Last Stand, because at least that film understands proper tone and how to deliver something amusing.

Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters – 5/10

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  • Danno Klonowski

    I haven’t seen it and won’t (I know, I know), but dear old Shloggs did and detested it as well. When is Renner going to turn away those dump trucks full of money from his house??!! “We Need To Have a Talk About Jemery Renner” (which you’d be welcome to join us on!) is going to be an upcoming WAYNE GALE VARIETY HOUR podcast topic.

    As you know, the WGVH is here: http://cartoonistconspiracy.com/sushipodcast

    As for the director…I was excited as all hell for Dead Snow from trailer #1, but when I finally got around to seeing it on Netflix streaming a year or so back I was totally unimpressed. I didn’t know if it was international editing or what but at many points the story jumps and key, plot-forwarding events evidently happened we’re not shown and for the most part everything with the zombie Nazis (which should be the best bits) make absolutely no sense. I was not jazzed at all for H&G from the greenlight, and to know he directed puts it right on the bottom of my list of things to ever see.

    • http://twitter.com/MinimeJer05 Jeremy Lebens

      We Need to Talk About Renner sounds like an AMAZING idea for a show. I’d love to join you guys, but I doubt our schedules would allow for such. Looking forward to listening to it though!

      Dead Snow sounded awesome, but from what I watched you’re pretty much dead-on with stuff never really getting shown to help advance it. I think I’ve only reached 30 mins into it, but by that point I had no problems pausing it and never returning to finish. Never a good sign.

      Wise decision not to bother with H&G. I think I saw Shloggs at the screening! He’s a fast power-walker once those end credits pull up.

  • Shloggs Horror Blog

    Fantastic review! Your line about the many times Renner “spits out a facial expression that can best be described as waiting for an oil change” is dead on and totally hilarious. Renner was brilliant in Dahmer which I first saw when it came out on home video. He excels at playing incredibly intense, nuanced psychopaths, so it’s been painful to watch Hollywood try to grind him up into a typical leading man.

  • http://www.facebook.com/scanfieldfilms Sean Canfield

    Everyone else loves it, says it’s fun and gory, just like the trailers made it look. Your review just makes me want to see it more.

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