Rating: ½ star out of 5
In 2009, Norwegian filmmaker Tommy Wirkola wrote, directed, produced and had a cameo in the Norwegian-language horror comedy “Dead Snow.”
“Dead Snow” tells the story of a group of campers in the isolated mountains of Norway who are attacked by Nazi zombies after a member of their party steals from a stash of cursed Nazi gold.
This film is B-grade movie horror at its best, featuring a ridiculous plot, hammy acting, gratuitous gore and a horrifying sex scene in an outhouse.
I mention this unknown, cult favorite, foreign, independent film neither because it is one of the most entertaining movies you will ever see nor because of my goal to introduce people to the most delightful subgenre of Nazi zombie films.
Rather, I bring up “Dead Snow” because it gets right everything that Wirkola’s first big-budget film gets wrong.
“Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters” follows up on the titular characters from the classic fairytale "Hansel and Gretel" 15 years after their encounter with the cannibalistic, candy-obsessed witch.
The siblings have since dedicated their lives to killing every witch they can get their hands on, with great success.
But when a coven of witches kidnap 12 children for a planned ritual called the Feast of the Blood Moon, Hansel and Gretel are faced with their toughest challenge yet.
Big stars Jeremy Renner (from Kathryn Bigelow’s exquisite “The Hurt Locker,” but best known as Hawkeye in “The Avengers”) and Gemma Arterton (the Bond girl from “Quantum of Solace”) play the title characters, though neither with much enthusiasm.
This is the real failing of the movie — nobody looks like they’re having fun.
There are two paths to making an awful B-grade movie style film — which “Hansel and Gretel” certainly is despite its $50 million budget and big studio release — actually work: either the actors are in on the joke and think it’s hilarious, or they didn’t get the memo and take it way too seriously.
With “Hansel and Gretel” it feels like everyone on the set knows what they’re doing is ridiculous but they don’t find it funny.
This attitude is surprisingly palpable to audiences and it isn’t helped by the supreme lack of chemistry between Renner and Arterton, the dull script or slow pacing.
It’s unfortunate because in other circumstances a fairy tale about a pair of siblings hell-bent on revenge against witches could have been a lot of fun.
All the anachronisms, for example, in the right setting could have been hilarious — like watching Hansel use a Middle Ages version of a hypodermic needle for his diabetes that was brought on by the candy witch in his youth, or just plain awesome – like using a Gatling gun to cut down the coven of witches.
But any attempt at humor in this movie just ends up falling flat.
Ultimately, “Hansel and Gretel” is beaten by what I can only call a supreme lack of fun.
The rest of the film’s problems are secondary and really irrelevant in the face of this major failing, from which no aspiring cult favorite, B-grade movie can overcome.
Instead of drudging out in the cold to see “Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters,” I highly recommend staying in for a good night of Nazi zombies.
Coming Soon on Friday, February 1:
“Warm Bodies:” An epidemic has transformed most of Earth’s population into zombies. But one of those zombies named R begins to feel like he's becoming human again. When R saves a beautiful human girl from a zombie attack, comedic complications arise.
Starring: Nicholas Hoult and Teresa Palmer
“Stand Up Guys:” After 28 years in prison, a former gangster gets out of jail. He meets up with his past partners in crime and they all go out for what turns out to be a crazy adventure.
Starring: Al Pacino, Christopher Walkin and Alan Arkin