January 28th, 2013, by Rob


Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters

Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters is a 2013 action-horror dark fantasy film with black comedy elements written and directed by Tommy Wirkola and filmed in 3D. It is a continuation to the German folk fairy tale “Hansel and Gretel”, which was recorded by the Brothers Grimm and published in 1812. The film is starring Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton in the titular roles of a brother-and-sister duo of professional witch hunters, with Famke Janssen as the deadly leader of a coven of evil witches that they seek out to destroy.

Originally scheduled for March 2012, the R-rated film was released in 2D, 3D and IMAX 3D, premiering in the United States on January 25, 2013. It was much better received by horror genre critics, who viewed it as unpretentiously entertaining, than by general film critics who mostly panned it, often for what they perceived as a weak script. The film topped the U.S. box office on its opening weekend.

 

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Movie2k Watch Movies – Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters – Plot

Abandoned by their father deep in a forest, young Hansel and Gretel enter a gingerbread house and are nabbed by the old witch who resides in it. The witch forces Hansel to continuously eat candy while making Gretel prepare the oven, but the siblings outsmart her and shove her into the fire. Throughout the years after the incident, Hansel and Gretel become ruthless bounty hunters dedicated to exterminating witches. Their work is relatively easy because for an unknown reason, they are immune to spells and curses. Hansel, however, is diabetic as a result of his ordeal and needs to take a regular shot of a medicine every day.

One day, in the town of Augsburg, Hansel and Gretel prevent Sheriff Berringer from executing Mina, a young woman accused of witchcraft. Mayor Englemann has hired the siblings to find and rescue several children abducted by witches. Berringer hires trackers for the same mission, hoping to regain the respect of the Mayor. However, all but one of the party are killed that night by the powerful grand witch Muriel, who sends the surviving member back to the town tavern to explode as a warning to the locals. Hansel and Gretel, with the help of the Mayor’s deputy Jackson, capture a witch and interrogate her. They discover that the witches are preparing for the ritual of Blood Moon, which requires sacrificing six boys and six girls, each born on a separate month. Suddenly, Muriel, another witch and the troll, Edward, attack the town and abduct the targeted girl. Gretel is knocked unconscious but is brought to safety by a local boy named Ben, who is aspiring to be a witch hunter himself. Hansel grabs a fleeing witch by her broomstick, but is lost in the forest.

The next morning, Hansel is found by Mina, who takes him to a spring to heal his wounds. Meanwhile, Gretel enters the forest to search for him, but she is assaulted by Berringer and his men for luring the witches to their town. She is rescued when Edward arrives and mutilates the men and mends her injuries. When asked by Gretel why he saved her, Edward answers that trolls serve witches and walks away. Hansel and Gretel reunite at an abandoned cabin, which they discover is not only their childhood home, but also a witch’s lair. Muriel appears in front of them, telling them the truth of their past. It is revealed that Hansel and Gretel’s mother was a grand white witch named Adrianna, married to a farmer. On the night of the Blood Moon, the heart of a white witch is needed to create a potion that makes witches impervious to fire. As Adrianna was too powerful, Muriel targeted Gretel, who was revealed to be a white witch herself. Muriel spread a rumor across the village about Adrianna. To keep the siblings away from the mob of villagers, their father left them in the forest before he was hanged while their mother was burned at the stake. Following this revelation, the siblings battle Muriel before she stabs Hansel and abducts Gretel for the ceremony.

Hansel wakes up to the sight of Mina, who reveals herself to be a white witch. After Mina uses a spell to bless the siblings’ arsenal, Hansel, Mina and Ben head to disrupt the Blood Moon. While Mina mows down dozens of witches with a Gatling gun, Hansel squares off against Muriel’s minions and frees the children while Edward defies Muriel’s orders and releases Gretel before he is thrown off the cliff by Muriel. With the ceremony ruined, Muriel and the surviving witches attempt to flee, but the witches are killed by traps while Ben shoots Muriel off her broomstick. On her way to meet up with Hansel, Gretel finds Edward and uses her stun gun to defibrillate him back to life. Hansel, Gretel and Mina follow Muriel’s trail to the old gingerbread house. During their confrontation, Muriel fatally stabs Mina. The siblings engage in a grueling fight against Muriel inside the gingerbread house until they decapitate her with a shovel. In the end, Hansel and Gretel collect the rest of their reward for rescuing the children before embarking on their next hunt, with Ben and Edward joining them.

 

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Movie2k Watch Movies – Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters – Cast

Jeremy Renner as Hansel
Cedric Eich as young Hansel
Gemma Arterton as Gretel
Alea Sophia Boudodimos as young Gretel
Famke Janssen as Muriel
Pihla Viitala as Mina
Derek Mears as Edward
Robin Atkin Downes as Edward (voice)
Thomas Mann as Ben
Peter Stormare as Sheriff Berringer
Rainer Bock as Mayor Englemann
Bjørn Sundquist as Jackson
Monique Ganderton as candy witch
Zoë Bell as tall witch
Joanna Kulig as redhead witch
Ingrid Bolsø Berdal as horned witch
Thomas Scharff as Hansel and Gretel’s father
Kathrin Kühnel as Adrianna

Movie2k Watch Movies – Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters – Production

“ Blood and gore and action, all the stuff that I love…It’s definitely an R-rated movie, the first draft has a lot of blood and guts. First and foremost, it’s an action movie, I think, with horror elements. And of course some dark humor as well. But the action and horror are the most important feelings I want. ”

—Tommy Wirkola (writer/director) in 2009

Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters was the first big studio production of the Norwegian writer and director Tommy Wirkola, up to this point best known for his Nazi zombie themed, independent horror comedy film Dead Snow (2009). Wirkola said he was contacted by the producer Kevin Messick from Gary Sanchez Productions after the screening of Dead Snow at the Sundance Film Festival: “So my first meeting, my first day in LA was with those guys and I pitched Hansel and Gretel and they loved it. And they took me to Paramount two days after and we sold it.”

An announcement of Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters sparked a production of several other “Hansel and Gretel” based films made by different studios, including The Asylum’s mockbuster Hansel & Gretel, Syfy’s Witchslayer Gretl, and Lionsgate Home Entertainment’s Hansel & Gretel: Warriors of Witchcraft. The film was also a part of an overall Hollywood trend of witch themed films, among them Beautiful Creatures and Oz the Great and Powerful set to be released that same season. The project was given a budget of $50 million, co-financed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters – Concept and design

Tommy Wirkola said: “I have a strong memory from my childhood of just how dark and gruesome their tale was and I wondered what would have happened to the two of them when they grew up? They had this dark past and this intense hatred of witches. So as I thought about it, it made sense to me that of course they would be fated to become great witch hunters. We wanted it to feel like this could be happening 300 years ago but at the same time, there is a modern spin on all the action, characters and weaponry. It was a fun way to make a classical world feel fresh.” Gary Sanchez Productions’ Adam McKay said in 2010: “The idea is, they’ve grown up and they hunt witches. It’s a hybrid sort of old-timey feeling, yet there’s pump-action shotguns. Modern technology but in an old style. We heard it and we were just like, ‘That’s a freakin’ franchise! You could make three of those!'” Dante Harper was hired to rewrite the script, aimed for “having a gory-but-funny Shaun of the Dead vibe.”

The film’s costumes were designed by Marlene Stewart, using traditional leather and linen but not aming at an antique look. Its steampunk-like, retro-futuristic weapons were created together by the weapon designer Simon Boucherie and Wirkola, who said they wanted the weapons of Hansel and Gretel to look like if they hand-made them. The witches’ look was designed by Twilight Creations (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows). According to McKay, “the witches are awesome in it. Nasty, mean witches, and we’ll get some great actresses for them as well.” Wirkola said he wanted to reinvent witches as villains: “I do love Witches of Eastwick. We wanted to try to avoid the classical witch with the long nose stirring the pot. I really wanted them to be…dangerous, fast – they’re stronger than Hansel and Gretel…It’s a good basis for a villain.” Wirkola recalled “that was the most fun was finding their look and sound. For the main witches, we found one animal to represent all of them, like Muriel is a wolf. It just helped us find the witches. In some ways, it feels like they’re the spawn of the dark places of nature. It should feel animalistic.”

 

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Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters – Cast and characters

Jeremy Renner (Hansel) stated: “That was one of the most fun jobs I’ve ever had because there’s something magical about that old world, fantasy thing.” Renner said that his initial attraction came from a one sheet that he was given even before the script, showing Hansel and Gretal walking away and a witch burning in the background, which he found “incredibly interesting”. He added: “When I read the script, my first thought was, ‘I can’t believe this hasn’t been done yet.’ It’s such a great idea with so much potential. That dynamic was definitely a big thing, I loved that what Tommy wrote left so much room for character.”
“ There’s a lot of fairy tale stuff, but that fight is really real and bloody and quite brutal. Women are the villains a lot of the time. Not all the time. There are some horrible male villains as well. But I guess Gretel is very feminist. She’s quite full on. ”

—Gemma Arterton (Gretel in the film)

The role of Gretel was originally planned for Noomi Rapace, who dropped out of consideration for the part prior to early January 2011. Instead cast was Gemma Arterton, who said she was attracted to Wirkola’s “strong vision” for the film, described it as “very, very dark, and bloodthirsty and there’s a lot of cursing. It’s kind of got a Tarantino feel, really. Artenson described her character as “much more in tune with her spiritual side. Hansel is a typical action hero, cheeky, funny, a womanizer. She’s much more of a thinker, intense, internal and bit more open-minded than he is.” She added: “Jeremy [Renner] and I found within the script moments where we showed the vulnerable side of them. Often in action movies, people are scared to put that in. I think it was important.”

The role of the chief witch Muriel was given to Famke Janssen, who also described the film as “Tarantino-esque”, with “a lot of blood, gore and exploding witches”. Janssen said that at first the initial appeal was just money, but she quickly took a liking of the script and of Wirkola personally, and thought the idea of playing an “evil to the core” witch “was appealing and different. I hadn’t done anything like it…A character like a witch feels like you would have so much freedom, because there are no restrictions as to what you can do.” Later, however, she was constantly being distracted by the special effects work and felt that she “really understood the character” only in one part of the film. Janssen also said that the film can appeal to women and girls, too: “There’s a brother and a sister story. And there’s a romance in it too – but obviously not with the witch. Nobody falls in love with the witch.”

The role of Edward (voiced by Robin Atkin Downes) was played by Derek Mears (Jason Voorhees in Friday The 13th), using an elaborate suit that he compared to “kind of like NASCAR where I’m piloting it but I’m not doing it by myself…I think there’s like five guys controlling the individual parts of the character. There’s one person who does the eye brows, one person does the feet.” Besides Jannsen, several other Scandinavian actors were also cast in the lead and major roles, including Pihla Viitala, Peter Stormare, Bjørn Sundquist and Ingrid Bolsø Berdal.

Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters – Filming and post-production

Filming began in March 2011 and took place in Germany, at the Babelsberg Studio in Potsdam-Babelsberg, in a forest near Berlin and in the city of Braunschweig. The movie was filmed in 3-D. Wirkola said they “shot half of it in real 3D and the other half was post converted. Actually the 3D thing wasn’t there in the beginning. It was something the studio suggested later on. We embraced it and I think it actually really helps in getting people into this fairy tale world. When you’re doing a film like this and creating a world, it helps immerse [the viewer].” He added: “Hopefully – you can see what I’m inspired by: Raimi and Jackson. Actually I’m a big fan of Spielberg and the way he shoots action scenes. I think in a lot of modern action movies, it’s hard to see what’s going on. Shaky cam… Hopefully what we strived for was to go a little retro in how you shoot action scenes.” Hans Zimmer worked on the film as a music supervisor.
“ Most of it is all practical, even the witches flying on the brooms – it was pretty much all practical. They were all on wires, it was awesome! There’s a scene [where] I come down around and literally there’s 60 witches there. The rock structure was maybe 70 or 50 feet tall, it was massive, and I’d be shooting these witches and they’d just be flying off on wires. ”

—Jeremy Renner (Hansel in the film)

The film was made using mostly practical effects, supplemented by computer-generated imagery (CGI) for about 15% of the film’s special effects, such as the transformations. Wirkola said: I’m a big believer in just using CGI to polish what you get on camera. For me that’s the ideal use of CGI. We have a troll in the film that is animatronic. I loved him. It took some convincing to get the studio along with the animatronic creature. There have been bad experiences with animatronics throughout various productions but I saw this company Spectral Motion. They did the Hellboy movies and I just loved it.” Janssen, however, “was not entirely prepared for how involved and long that was going to be” and “actually wanted to burn the prosthetic make-up by the end of the movie.”

Janssen said the film is “definitely played with a bit of a wink and doesn’t take itself too seriously.” Wirkola himself described it as “a little more grounded” and action-centered than Dead Snow. He said: “In the beginning, they said go crazy. But if you go too far with the humor, it becomes spoofy and loses its impact. Too gory and it just takes you out of it.” He recalled that he has tried to downplay comedy elements: “If you go too far, it can turn into a spoof almost…We shot a lot more than what is in the movie of course and it’s just balancing it when you’re cutting.” Speaking of graphic violence, he said that “the first version we tested was for sure the most extreme. Some stuff stayed in, some stuff got cut out.” By August 2012, Paramount was reportedly test screening two versions of the film, rated R and PG-13, and the R-rated cut received the positive feedback. Wirkola said: “I was afraid. I actually made sure they could never cut it to PG-13,” adding: “We always knew it was going to be R. We always knew it was going to be an extreme film.”

Initially slated for a March 2, 2012 release, the film was pushed by Paramount Pictures to a ten month delay for January 11, 2013. After the film was delayed to 2013, the crew did a “couple” of re-shoots, including “a little bit” in the Deserts of California. The first trailer for the film was released on September 5, 2012.

 

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Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters – Release

The film was again delayed by two weeks to January 25, 2013 in the United States and Canada. A statement from Paramount suggested that the film was delayed to enable it to be released in IMAX 3D format. In early January 2013, illegal copies of the film were discovered in a major anti-piracy bust. Prior to its North American premiere, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters was first released in Russia on January 17, followed by the releases in Indonesia and the Philippines on January 23, and in several nations across Latin America and South-East Asia on January 24. Also on January 25 it was released in more countried in Latin America, with the other parts of the world to follow between January 31 and mid-March.

Movie2k Watch Movies – Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters – Soundtrack

The film’s soundtrack Hansel & Gretel Witch Hunters – Music from the Motion Picture with the music by Atli Örvarsson was released in the MP3 format by Paramount Music on January 22, 2013.
Hansel & Gretel Witch Hunters – Music from the Motion Picture
Soundtrack album by Atli Örvarsson
Released January 22, 2013
Genre Film score
Label Paramount Music
No. Title Length
1. “The Witch Hunters” 2:29
2. “Business Is Good” 2:11
3. “Trolls Serve Witches” 3:33
4. “Lost Children Crying, Vol. 2” 2:33
5. “You Do the Bleeding” 3:34
6. “There Are Good Witches in the World” 4:11
7. “This Place Could Use a Bit of Color” 4:17
8. “Goodbye Muriel” 3:21
9. “Don’t Eat the Candy” 3:48
10. “Burn ‘Em All” 5:03
11. “White Magic” 1:52
12. “Shoot Anything That Moves” 3:29
13. “The Fairy Tale” 2:53
14. “Augsburg Burns” 4:20

Movie2k Watch Movies – Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters – Reception

Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters – Box office

Los Angeles Times predicted the film to become the “box-office bull’s-eye, with pre-release audience surveys indicating an expected $30 million for the opening weekend in the United States. One week prior to the U.S. release, the film opened to a “huge” $8.6 million in Russia, which made its international prospects look good, according to Yahoo! News. Entertainment Weekly predicted the film to “likely top the chart in its debut weekend” with $17 million; similarily, MovieWeb predicted $17.5 million. Paramount said they counted on $20 million.

The U.S. initial midnight screening at selected theaters made an estimated $500,000, a “so-so result”. The film took the top position on its first day’s screening at 3,373 locations across the country, earning an estimated $6 million and suggesting a three-day total of $15-17 million, according to various estimates. The film topped the weekend’s North American box office with $19 million, the first day’s underperformance blamed on a bad weather on the U.S. East Coast, in addition to $25 million earned in several other territories where it has been also released already (representing about 40% of the international market), bringing the total to about $55 million at this point. Audiences gave it a “B” CinemaScore grade.

Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters – Reviews

“ If the very title has you rolling your eyes, don’t even bother. If, however, it makes you think you’d like to see the further adventures of the fairy tale characters, by all means take a chance. ”

—Daniel M. Kimmel

 

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Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters was met with largely negative critical reviews, with an 18% approval rating and an average rating of 4.1/10 from the 49 reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. The site’s critical consensus states: “Alternately bloody and silly, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters fails as both a fantasy adventure and as a parody of same.” Metacritic rates the film at 22 out of 100, based on 17 reviews. According to CBS, “critics have not been too kind to these witch-hunting siblings. Several reviewers have blasted the film for its thin story, deliberate anachronisms, and lack of funny dialogue.”

Andrew Barker of Variety called the film “inconsistently acted, and somehow both underwritten and overplotted,” and while the action is “frequent and competently staged,” it might feel too repetitive “as yet another witch is ripped apart limb from limb, sending yet another wave of viscera sluicing toward the camera.” Similarily, Stephanie Merry of The Washington Post wrote that “after a while it’s easy to become numb to the repulsive sights and bored by action that once seemed intense and exciting” in this “rarely funny spoof that’s heavy on bone-crushing and blood-gushing,” giving it one-and-half star out of four. Steven Farber of The Hollywood Reporter also wrote a scathing review, saying that while “Wirkola makes the most of the 3D technology”, “the film is too fanciful to be truly revolting” for its gore effects and “despite its few wry jokes, the script is awfully thin.” Roger Moore of The Charlotte Observer gave the film one-and-a-half out of four stars, writing that Wirkola “focuses on the fights and flings all manner of viscera at the 3-D camera as limbs are whacked off and heads and torsos explode. Less attention was paid to the story, and the dialogue is a tad over-reliant on the random f-word to land a laugh.” Lou Lumenick of the New York Post gave the film zero out of four stars, writing that “nothing makes a whole lot of sense in this incoherent movie, whose director’s philosophy seems to be: When in doubt, cut somebody’s head off.” Kat Murphy of MSN gave it one star out of four, comparing this “big-budget faux fairy tale about skanky witches” to a “downscale video game for dull-eyed teens happy to lap up lame wisecracks and lots of gore.”

Claudia Puig of USA Today wrote “this convoluted hybrid of fairy tale and fantasy/action/comedy/horror aims for campy fun, but comes off tedious and blood-spattered.” According to Vulture’s Bilge Ebiri, “if the similarly situated Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter took itself too seriously, the problem with Hansel & Gretel is that it doesn’t quite take itself seriously enough.” Keith Staskiewicz of Entertainment Weekly gave the film a C-, calling it “an intermittently fun, but overexcited and predictable mish-mash.” Alicia Malone of IGN rated it a 4.5/10, stating “there are a few funny moments, but overall Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters is too similar to many films we’ve seen before.” Calum Marsh of Slant Magazine lambasted the film’s “sub-Tim Burton aesthetic” and wrote that “the result suggests A Knight’s Tale as penned by Seth MacFarlane,” giving it zero out of four stars. Less critical Scott A. Gray of Exclaim! praised some elements of the film, such as “lush and colourful art design that recalls a Guillermo Del Toro production, sound creature makeup and special effects, decently choreographed action scenes and a pair of leads who do their damnedest to sell the limp script”, giving it a score of 4/10. Chris Knight of The Vancouver Sun called it a “mess of a fairy tale”, expecting “a wiccan outcry at the film’s depiction — nay, endorsement — of the torture of witch-folk.” Liam Lacey of The Globe and Mail gave it one star out of four, concerned how it “has an alarming number of females being strung up, burned, shot, decapitated and eviscerated.”

Some reception of the film, however, was much more positive, in particular by reviewers for horror websites. Michael Gingold of Fangoria gave it two-and-half out of four skulls, while Jonathan Barkan of Bloody Disgusting gave it four out of five skulls, stating it “isn’t a movie meant to scare or make you think but it is one of the most entertaining and enjoyable movies of its kind that I’ve seen in years.” Scott Weinberg of FEARnet wrote that “aside from some very clunky editorial missteps in the film’s second half, there’s a good deal of wit, enthusiasm, energy, and amusing attitude to be found in the dumb-yet-self-aware Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters,” all while noting that he is “not the type to act snobbish around a ridiculous film that obviously knows it’s ridiculous.” According to Ryan Larson of Shock Till You Drop, the film “is a mixed bag” but “fortunately, the lows don’t appear as often as you would think, and, “if taken at face value, Hansel & Gretel is well worth the view.”

William Bibbiani of CraveOnline, who criticized the film’s inadequately “limp” marketing campaign, found the movie itself “inherently stupid” but in a good way, “played with humor, ultraviolence and anachronistic fetish.” Cinema Blend’s Sean O’Connell stated that “far short of being dismissed as a failure,” the film is “often mean and nasty, but that’s really its saving grace.” Peter Paras of E! recommended this “super violent, pretty funny flick” for how it “revels in the mayhem”. Tom Russo of The Boston Globe, giving the film three out of five stars, called it a “splattery fanboy fun. Preposterous, clearly, but fun.” Rick Florino of Artistdirect gave it four out of five stars, stating: “This has all the elements of a classic action flick, and it’s destined for cult status. Welcome to the most fun movie of 2013.” DVD Talk’s Jamie S. Rich summed up: “Is Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters a good movie? Probably not. At least not in any way that is defensible by regular critical standards. Is it a hell of a good time? Absolutely so. Unabashedly so. That’s all it wants to be.”

Neil Geinzlinger of The New York Times wrote that “it may not stay in the public eye long because this movie is probably not going to put up Twilight-like numbers,” adding that “the script doesn’t give them enough of the witty lines that can elevate these types of movies to must-see status, which is odd, since the producers include Will Ferrell.” Vince Horiuchi of The Salt Lake Tribune suggested that this film should had been made 30 years ago by Sam Raimi and starring Bruce Campbell, while instead “the Hansel and Gretel we’re left with runs out of its magic potion far too early to let us enjoy its wicked possibilities.” A more positive comparison to Raimi and Campbell’s Army of Darkness was made by Pete Vonder Haar of the Houston Press, who gave it three out five “witch hazels” and wrote: “I’m not sure if witches are the next vampires/zombies, or if the hinted-at franchise potential has any legs, but this was a perfectly vulgar way to spend 90 minutes.” Tim Grierson of Screen International wrote that Hansel and Gretel “works best as an unapologetic B-movie action flick” and “feels like a first film in a franchise that’s meant to set up the main characters and conflicts, which can then be fleshed out in sequels” but “the problem is that there isn’t enough here to warrant a return trip to this semi-magical land.” Richard Corliss of TIME agreed with this sentiment, stating that “one might be enough — too much, for some tastes.”

 

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