Fair warning, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters earns its R rating primarily via buckets of blood. I have to wonder if this was an intended upgrade in violence to differentiate the movie from The Brothers Grimm and Van Helsing, which are very similar in steampunk meets gothic horror inspired design aesthetic and filming style. In any event, the variety of deaths is inspired and at times very imaginative, but if lots (and lots) of blood bothers you this movie is a skip. If not, read on.
While I don't want to belabor the point too much, H&G does bear a striking similarity to both Van Helsing and especially The Brothers Grimm. All three films are more action than they are horror with a dose of comic relief that only sometimes works. The overall plot line of H&G is generally superior to those films, but it still comes across as a B movie glossed over with A list actors and a bigger special effects budget. The story isn't as convoluted as those films, and there is a well considered (if not entirely surprising) twist to the story as it comes to a satisfying end. Along the way are some good fight and chase sequences, which is what the advertising is heavily relying upon to draw crowds.
The action does work, with some caveats. As usual in these kinds of movies, the beatings people can take and keep on fighting takes a bit more suspension of disbelief than can be sustained for a whole movie. The focus on lots of blood also leaves you feeling like to many shots were set up just so they could have another geyser so the flow of the fights stumbles on occasion. Nevertheless, the action does deliver what the commercials promise. Note that many of the effects (not just bloody ones) are geared to the 3D version of the film, with gimmicky "flying out of the screen" scenes that may look strange in 2D. The 3D was clean and clear for the most part, and with a short run time (only 88 mins) that's easy to sit through you may want to go ahead and see the 3D version to get full value out of the eye candy.
Costume design and especially makeup are excellent, with the variety of witches being truly inspired and interesting. The characters themselves aren't complex, with the title characters being far more one dimensional than the talent of the actors deserved. The stand out is Famke Janssen as the villain Muriel, who captures your attention every time she is on screen.
I feel like I saw exactly the movie I expected to see and was duly entertained, so I give Hansel and Gretel 3 stars.
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