This one was not taking itself seriously. At all. The first thing you see after the opening credits sequence is milk bottles with the faces of missing children being drawn on them for crying out loud. Not to mention the film features enough ham and cheese for the creators to start their own sandwich parlor. That being said, sweet heaven is this one stupidly fun!
Following on from a very loose version of the events of the German fairy-tale, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters follows the now adult siblings after they have made a name for themselves killing the brides of Satan for a living. Coming across the village of Augusberg which has suffered repeated kidnappings of infants in recent weeks, the two find themselves with a new employer but also at odds with the local law enforcement. Despite some initial successes against the local witches, it quickly becomes clear that something much bigger is afoot and the witches have a goal much bigger than just devouring human children.
Probably best known for having made Dead Snow four years ago, director Tommy Wirkola stated that his biggest influences in making the film were Sam Raimi and Peter Jackson, and given it's content it's fairly easy to see why. While Wirkola tries to keep his own unique spin on things there's definitely a considerable degree of their trademarks on display. The plot and many scenes feel as if they were written by someone who'd watched Army of Darkness fifty times too many, the film utilises frequent facial prosthetics for its villains and the level of gore is kept to a humorous degree.
The best comparison which comes to mind are the sorts of over the top, goofy action films driven by their concept and taking only a small degree of it seriously. Van Helsing and The Mummy being an obvious standouts along with, potentially, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. The sort of clockwork fantasy film which is very much aware of just how mad it is but doesn't seem to care about that fact. None of which are what you'd call good in any respect but where they don't have the glaring, gaping flaws found in things like the Transformers live action films and manage to have an odd sort of charm about them.
What sets Hansel and Gretel slightly apart from previous titles seems to be that it's taking a few more risks than you usually find with them. Along with a few F-Bombs dropped in certain places the foes they face are mostly female, something which the vast majority of action films (even big ones) would go out of their way to avoid. The gore, while avoiding being torture porn, is still present and kept to a darkly humorous degree throughout. It sort of pays off though, making it a bit more memorable than it otherwise might have been and commendable in how it uses its rating. It would have taken very few omitted shots or rewritten lines to scale it down to a 12 or lower to make it appeal to a wider audience, something considered a definite sin in a lot of circles especially with detractors of the AvP franchise.
The cinematography is definitely stable throughout if not too remarkable lacking some of the money shots you'd want with sequences such as
The action sequences themselves are competently shot enough to not complain about anything major but they're nothing to shout about either. Most of their recognisable fun tending to stem either from the insane gadgets the titular duo employ to kill their foes or the grotesquely deformed quirks of the witches, most of who look like they've walked right out of the Troll Market. Seriously, if the special effects team from Hellboy wasn't involved with this in some way i'll be very surprised.
You can probably guess that acting isn't a big priority in this film, so the only thing to really comment upon is it never reaches Flash Gordon levels of scenery chewing. Hammy yes but in an enjoyable, not quite overt, sort of way.
If you're looking for a film to watch as a one shot and riff on with friends this is yet another one you can add to the growing list that's been covered by the site. It's definitely something you watch once, laugh at the jokes, enjoy the action, and never feel the desire to pick up again in the future. I'd definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a fun film, or some extremely good physical effects, but not if you're looking for something with real substance.