Sunday, January 13, 2013

Movie Review: “Hansel & Gretel”

Runtime: 90 minutes
Rating: NR
Release Date: January 8, 2013
Director: Anthony Ferrante

Gretel is a typical teenage girl, working in a bakery run by Lilith (Dee Wallace, “The Howling”). After meeting her brother, father, and his girlfriend for dinner, her father decides to tell the teens that they can no longer live with them. Once he and his girlfriend tie the knot, the two need to find new places to live. Though Gretel understands his position, Hansel immediately storms off in a fit of rage.

Gretel manages to chase her brother down in the middle of the woods, where their mother took them as kids. When Hansel trips over a tree root and sprains his ankle, she helps him through the woods, and they stumble across a small bungalow in the middle of nowhere. Luckily, the home is owned by Lilith, who inherited the house from her family. Lilith welcomes them into her home, fixes them a selection of dishes, and worries that Gretel won't get enough to eat.

Though Lilith seems nice enough, it's clear that she's harboring a dark secret. Once Gretel passes out after drinking a cup of tea, two sinister men step inside from the woods and drag Hansel into the basement. There, Hansel meets several people who were unlucky enough to run into Lilith. As they remain chained to the walls, they let him know that Lilith is a witch who eats people and that Gretel might just be the next person on her list.

With all of the hype surrounding the upcoming “Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters,” it isn't surprising that The Asylum jumped on the bandwagon with a mockbuster film. What is surprising is that “Hansel & Gretel” actually comes across as a pretty entertaining film. The Asylum often cuts budgets and makes films on limited budgets, and even though this one only had a budget of around $150,000, that works as one of its advantages.

The screenplay takes the tale that we all know out of some unknown age and tosses it into the modern world. This Hansel and Gretel is a brother-sister team who know all about cell phones and the Internet, but it's believable that they would get lost in the woods without any modern conveniences. The film also does a good job of setting up the loving yet sometimes antagonistic relationship between the two, which plays like a real brother-sister relationship.

There are two big standouts in the film: Dee Wallace and Clark Perry. Dee Wallace can do a horror movie like no one else, and she seems perfectly cast as the witch. Wallace sometimes hams it up a little too much, like the scene where she chases after a man with a crazy look in her eyes that makes you sit back from the screen. She has some great moments onscreen, but when she goes a little crazy, you might find yourself wincing a little.

Perry takes on the role of Kevin, one of the unfortunate souls chained in Lilith's basement. He serves as the comedic relief in the film, and he has some great lines. When Hansel worries about his sister, he asks if she's a big girl because, “they like to eat the big girls first,” and when Hansel wonders why he keeps eating the donuts and sugary snacks they deliver, he lets him know that if he's going to die, he's going to go out on top. He's the type of guy who runs off, rather than go back to save his friend, making it clear that he might be the only smart person in the movie.

Some might say that “Hansel & Gretel” is just another cheap imposter film from The Asylum, but I found it to be one of the more entertaining films the company released over the last few years. It won't keep movie lovers from racing to the theaters for the big-budget version, but it might appeal to those who would rather wait for that one to land on DVD.

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