Who else remembers that odd trend in the early 2010’s when studios were putting out gritty, action-oriented adaptations of classic fairy tales? This trend included 2011’s Red Riding Hood, 2012’s Snow White and the Hunstman (and its 2016 sequel), 2013’s Jack the Giant Slayer, as well as Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (also from 2013).
The result was a much darker take on some of these tales, ironically bringing some of them back to their very disturbing origins. Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters was a fascinating concept in that rather than adapt the tale itself, it used the myth as its prologue and expanded upon the characters as adults, continuing their quest to slay those practicing the dark arts.
So in honor of its 10th anniversary today, we wanted to look back at Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, and see if it was a worthy entry in the annals of these dark reboots, as well as whether it was an overall success or failure with its legacy.
Expanding the Myth
Opening with the classic story, we learn that after Hansel and his sister Gretel defeated that original witch, they grew up to become famous witch hunters, traveling across Europe, fighting evil. It picks up years later with the sibling duo (played by Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton) as they enter a village about to burn a woman alive for being a witch.
Initially, the movie comes off a bit heavy-handed with its, “simple villagers will accuse and burn anyone for being a witch”, but in the mythology the movie creates, it uses this scene to establish the markers that our heroes use to find and defeat evil witches. It also makes a point to create a duality between the good and evil witches, going so far as to change the fairy tale so that now Gretel herself is a witch, not unlike Blade from Marvel.
The movie itself boasts a really solid cast with Jeremy Renner at the height of his MCU fame, Gemma Arterton when she was getting critical acclaim from indie films like The Disappearance of Alice Creed and blockbuster credentials from Clash of the Titans and Prince of Persia, along with the always amazing character actor Peter Stormare. We also get a great villain performance from Famke Janssen, and horror legend Derek Mears in heavy makeup playing a monster of sorts.
Darker in (Some) Ways
As far as the other gritty fairy tale reboots went, HGWH was the only one that went for an R rating, with violence, gore, language, and even brief nudity. There’s even an extended cut with even more blood, and it shows that this movie was leaning more into horror than any of the others. But in a strange way, this kind of worked against it.
It’s not quite “b-movie” enough to be a campy fun horror movie, but it’s also too violent and adult to be a generic blockbuster with mass whole family appeal. Tonally, it feels a lot like 2004’s Van Helsing, with an intentional camp. But unlike Van Helsing, due to its R rating, its cornier moments don’t mesh as well with the rest.
That said, it does make an interesting change where Hansel and Gretel’s parents weren’t actually trying to leave them for dead like in the fairy tale. So in a strange way, it’s actually less disturbing than the original story was, while leaning heavily into monster horror with genuinely good makeup effects. And while some of the CGI was obviously made for 3D, it holds up for the most part.
HGWH was very much a product of the trend of its time, but it never took itself too seriously, and it still makes for a fun and decent watch. Compared to its contemporaries, it strikes that balance perfectly between fun action and monster horror.
What did you think of Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters? How did it compare with the other gritty adaptations of fairy tales? Let us know in the comments!
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