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It's going to be a busy year for breadcrumb-chasers and
candy-makers, and The Asylum have managed to pull the trigger first with their
spin on the classic fairy tale HANSEL & GRETEL (coming to Blu Ray/DVD and
VOD January 8). Close behind are at least three other titles in 2013, HANSEL
& GRETEL in 3D, another project titled simply HANSEL & GRETEL and
finally the film that holds most of the hype right now: HANSEL & GRETEL: WITCH
HUNTERS—a pretty clear ride on the coattails of old Abe and his vampire
hunting. While it's still uncertain which film will capture the imaginations of
audiences, The Asylum's early entry is worthy of a closer look.
HANSEL & GRETEL has always been a gruesome tale. Two
children lost in the woods and found by a dear old woman who plies them with
sweets and goodies, only to fatten them up to be eaten in a cannibalistic
frenzy. It's impossible to imagine children's entertainment built around
witchcraft and eating the flesh of kids these days, so the premise getting the
adult treatment is hardly surprising.
In director Anthony C. Ferrante's version of the story,
Hansel Grimm (Brent Lydic) and Gretel Grimm (Stephanie Greco) are modern teens
growing up in a small town. Gretel works for Lilith (Dee Wallace-Stone) in a
quaint bakery with famous meat pies. Not all is well in the charming town,
however, as we learn early on that teens are going missing. Naturally, the
trouble begins for Hansel and Gretel when they venture into the woods and find
themselves at a seemingly quaint cottage occupied by Lilith and her brothers.
This is where the movie takes a turn for TEXAS CHAINSAW
MASSACRE and Dee Wallace-Stone really cranks up her performance, chewing
through scene after scene. The mystery of the missing teens is soon solved, as
we find them being fattened up and thrown into a giant oven before being
Now, if you think about it, the elements of the story that
seem lifted right out of CHAINSAW and similar films are really original
elements of the fairy tale, so it's interesting to let Ferrante's vision put
that into perspective. He shoots the film with the eye of an experienced
director and manages to bring out some fantastic performances from his cast,
with the possible exception of Brent Lydic's Hansel, who never really comes
into his own.
Of particular note is a weirdo sequence where each character
suffers a kind of hallucinatory purgatory. It’s fun, imaginative and even a bit
shocking. Unfortunately, this chunk only serves to highlight the blandness of
everything else around it. Certainly there’s nothing wrong with everything that
comes before or after, but it never really feels that ambitious again. That is
ultimately the source of dissatisfaction with HANSEL & GRETEL, it does what
it does skillfully and competently, but rarely strives for more. One of the
seeming benefits of being an independent studio would be the ability to go further
outside the box than most, and it's a shame when that isn't used to maximum advantage.
HANSEL & GRETEL is a good evening of entertainment, and
if that’s what you are seeking, it delivers. For those looking for something
more out in left field, I'm sorry to say this candy is not quite so sweet.
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