Film review | Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters – Lissom Arterton and Renner can’t save fairy-tale splatterfest

HANSEL & GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS - Gemma Arterton & Jeremy Renner

Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters. It’s an amusingly cheeky notion: the siblings from the Brothers Grimm fairy tale as witch-slaying bounty hunters.

Sadly, writer-director Tommy Wirkola fails to make the most of his nifty set up and completely wastes the talents of stars Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton.

They’re the titular brother and sister and the story picks up their lives 15 years after their fabled escape from that treacherous gingerbread house and its cannibalistic witch.

Their skills honed over the subsequent years, the lissom, leather-clad duo now kill witches for profit and in their sights is Famke Janssen’s chief witch, whose coven has been snatching children for a black magic ritual involving the forthcoming Blood Moon…

HANSEL & GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS - Jeremy Renner.

Norwegian filmmaker Wirkola, the warped mind responsible for Nazi zombies in 2009 horror comedy Dead Snow, serves up another splatterfest here, and there’s plenty of darkly comic gore when Renner’s Hansel and Arteton’s Gretel dispatch their occult foes.

They use blatantly out-of-time weaponry – a shotgun for Hansel and a double-barrelled crossbow for Gretel – but these deliberately modern touches are more irritating than clever.

The film’s other anachronisms are similarly clumsy. The faces of the missing children pop up on milk bottles and Hansel injects himself to cope with the diabetes he developed being force-fed sweets during his childhood ordeal.

A defter hand than Wirkola’s might have succeeded with this irreverent approach – just look at The Princess Bride’s delightful send-up of the fairy tale genre. Here, most of the jokes fall flat.

The witches do get off the ground, though, and when they’re whizzing about on broomsticks or getting blasted to pieces by the vengeful siblings, the film does momentarily fly.

In cinemas from Wednesday 27th February.

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