Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters is the latest is a seemingly never-ending line of fairy tale rehashes for the Twilight generation. The story takes place a decade or so after the Grimm's fairy tale, and Hansel and Gretel (Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton) have recovered from their traumatic experience in the ginger-bread house to become professional witch hunters. They now spend their time travelling the world, making a decent living from keeping the witch population down until, the fabled 'Blood Moon' approaches and the siblings are faced with a new evil which might just hold a secret from their past.
Little effort has been made to establish the period, or even where characters are from; the aesthetic is set to 'generic European peasant' mode, and Arterton affects an American accent in keeping with all the other 'German' villagers. There is a steam punk sensibility similar to Paul W. S. Anderson's recent Three Musketeers reimagining, and the weapons in our central couple's arsenal include a pump action shot gun, and a clockwork defibrillator. If you're not yet convinced of the sheer stupidity of Hansel and Gretel, you will be by the time it is revealed that Hansel is... wait for it... diabetic.
Quite why Renner and Arterton agreed to participate in such a meritless monstrosity, only they could say, but the usually reliable leads are poor. It may not necessarily be their fault; both young actors are talented, but they are not magicians. There is no actor in the world who could polish this particular turd, but one does wonder what possessed them to agree to it. The crass script is made up of incoherent, sword and sorcery waffle, from-the-mould quips (e.g. "The only good witch is a dead witch") convoluted exposition and clunky plot points (e.g. "If you're gonna burn a witch, set her ass on fire.") The introduction of a friendly ogre called Edward, who bares an uncanny resemblance to Mickey Rourke circa Sin City, is the last of many straws.
Those looking for redeeming features in Hansel and Gretel will be sorely disappointed. Norwegian director Tony Wirkola's film is consistently dreadful; from its headache-inducing editing and hammy acting, to its humourless and cliché-riddled script. However, the worst thing about Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, is that is has no sense of fun. Previous genre mash-ups like last year's Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, at least had their tongues firmly in their cheeks, subverting the corny dialogue and generic action scenes that Hansel and Gretel solely relies on. Every one of its 88 minutes feels like a chore and any laughs that may arise are wholly unintentional. These major flaws, coupled with the badly rendered CGI, sloppy character design and some of the murkiest 3D to date, result in the most unpleasant cinematic experience in recent memory.
In a word: Grimm.
Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters is released in the UK 27th February