Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters
Director: Tommy Wirkola.
Cast: Jeremy Renner, Gemma Arterton, Famke Janssen, Peter Stormare, Pihla Viitala, Thomas Mann.
THE trend of making dark fairy tales for grown-ups continues and doesn't look like abating any time soon.
This is a bad thing if we can expect more films like Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, which points a sub-machine gun at the Brothers Grimm tale and blows its head off in a bloody computer-generated mess.
Writer-director Tommy Wirkola takes his one-note idea but fails to find a melody to go with it, instead relying on a cacophony of annoyingly edited fight scenes and some gratuitous and largely unneccessary helpings of gore.
In case the title doesn't tell you enough about the plot, it follows Hansel (Renner) and Gretel (Arterton), whose childhood run-in with a cannibalistic witch in a candy-coated cottage turned them into a pair of gun-toting hag hunters for hire.
As they search for some witches who have been stealing children from a Bavarian town, the siblings learn more about their past, as well as uncovering a secret ritual that is set to make their broom-riding foes even more powerful.
With its anachronistic weaponry, horror themes, and references to well-known stories, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters is most reminiscent of Hugh Jackman's Van Helsing. Another similarity it shares with Van Helsing is that it's not very good.
Wirkola's film revels in its gleeful violence, which is not surprising when you consider his previous effort was the Nazi zombie cult favourite Dead Snow. There's a similar B-grade tone to Hansel & Gretel, but its over-the-top cheesiness meshes poorly with its preference for taking itself too seriously.
The strong cast do their best, particularly Arterton, but the script helps little. The attempts to develop the characters beyond one dimension are token at best - the most interesting player proves to be a troll named Edward - and the plot largely stumbles to its destination by accident and coincidence.
More successful is the look of the film, which captures its indeterminate time period with a certain amount of style. There are some intriguing ideas here too, but they struggle to be noticed over the frustrating cuts in the action sequences and the daft script that continually mistakes swearing for humour.
There's a cultish edge to this ramshackle horror-actioner that will appeal to some, but Hansel & Gretel will struggle to keep most entertained and interested, despite only clocking in at 80 minutes.