Shoulda Been a Franchise

At no point does Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters wish for sincerity. Were it possible, Witch Hunters would make a wonderfully dorky side story to Army of Darkness. The same gross humor, the childish cliches, and rampant entertainment value pairs the two well.

Yet, nearly a decade after its release… nothing. Witch Hunters became a one-off that few appreciated. After all, it’s loud and grotesque, swimming in blood by the gallons, everything despised in most generic action cinema.

Witch Hunters hit at the right moment as studios began lifting fairy tales into live action as strict dramas

Witch Hunters isn’t that stupid though. As an adult, most will realize the Grimm fairy tales they grew up with contained ridiculously graphic parables about cooked and/or eaten children. Witch Hunters then is the equivalent of what happens if that realization happens as a teenager. Cheeky humor, decapitations, suggestive sexuality, and a score layered with hard metal turns Witch Hunters into a high school fantasy.

Mostly, Witch Hunters embraces this. There’s no attempt to dilute the juvenile absurdity. Other than the occasional flirtation of emotional drama between the brother and sister title characters, Witch Hunters remains wholly playful. And barely cracking 80-minutes, it’s difficult to be bored between the fits of action as a minimalist plot about blood moons plays out.

While no longer true, Witch Hunters hit at the right moment too as studios began lifting fairy tales into live action as strict dramas, and inconsistently playful. Then came Witch Hunters, willing to drape the concept in layers upon layers of dumb in the best way.

It’s all for the kids, of course. Hansel (Jeremy Renner) and Gretel (Gemma Arterton) perform these witch-killing services to protect children. They’re good people who happen to sling burly machine guns over their shoulders and burn witches alive. The whole project acknowledges the inherent violence in such fables, twisting their morality inside and out. Making the slaughter so utterly satisfying betrays the inherent horror, yet isn’t shying away from the sheer insanity. That willingness to go places leaves an impression – being forced to listen to a witch’s screams as she burns alive, kids looking on gleefully, is just too gruesomely fun not to laugh at.

Video

Brought up from a 2K finish, this disc isn’t punchy. By way of the source, Witch Hunters runs soft, although the upscale is flawlessly clean. The original digital cinematography shows no flaws, freed from (most) noise. That means consistent clarity, totally unimpeded. While lacking in sharpness, detail can still flourish. Forest scenery creates some 4K worthy sights. Facial detail, in close anyway, pops on occasion. Medium shots can’t compete against true 4K masters, which is expected.

While usually diluted, color vibrancy in the Dolby Vision presentation varies wildly. Candle-lit interiors drop warmth in droves. Elsewhere, flesh tones produce a neon-like glow, far from natural. Other primaries carry a neon touch too, especially the forest greens. It’s intense, like being set on vivid. The few scenes where a flatter palette takes over provides a break.

Generous contrast makes the greatest impact over the Blu-ray, loading up on intensely bright flames. Those highlights continue for the full runtime, elevating the total dimensionality. Black levels waver a bit between crushing and a little elevated. When on point, they look wonderful, but shadows wander too often. Consistent this is not, but an improvement from the Blu-ray. Where capable though, the 3D Blu-ray is the way to go.

Audio

Same TrueHD track as the Blu-ray. Active from its opening, forest activity spans the rears and hops into the stereos. Ambiance is noted during runs through the town, bustling with activity in all channels as exposition is dropped. Action carries a generous sweeping quality, panning extensively as objects or people travel from one part of the 2.35:1 frame to the other. Bullets are amply placed, and screeching witches pass over every channel. Witch Hunters is not aggressive enough to manage any dialogue splits, sticking to the center.

LFE props up an already strengthened audio mix, hammering home the low end during explosions or added oomph to shotgun blasts. Punches too are elevated to ludicrous levels, amplifying a larger than life quality. The score is lost a bit in the chaos, resonating in the subwoofer for dramatic effect and then slinking off. Elements otherwise come together.

Extras

Paramount dumps a typical making of onto the Blu-ray (only), titled Reinventing Hansel & Gretel, 15-minutes of idea sources and directing choices. Witching Hour hones in on make-up for nine minutes, while Edward the Troll is well detailed for its short five minute run time.

Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
4

Movie

Superficial nonsense in the extreme, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters takes morbidity of Grimm and has a total blast with it.

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User Review
4 (1 vote)

The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 40 full resolution uncompressed 4K screen shots grabbed directly from the UHD: