Thursday, 18 July 2013


When this came out at the beginning of the year, the critics and reviewers dumped on it from a great height. Even the fan press (specifically the Internet-based genre fans) was pretty cool. From the clips I'd seen it looked like a dumb popcorn movie but a fun dumb popcorn movie. Well, the general impression I got from reading the reviews was that I got everything right except the fun part.

But what the hell, I took a punt on the film when I could get the blu-ray for a tenner. And, well, either the critics were wrong or the extended cut (by around nearly ten minutes) was a whole load better because while I couldn't say I loved it, I certainly liked it a lot. and for lots of reasons, not the least being that it happened to be a shitload of fun.

For a start it was written and directed by Norwegian Tommy Wirkola of cult hit Dead Snow, the gory Nazi zom-com which I'd liked. In an extra, he tells us that as part of Australian film course he had to put a pitch for a movie and pitched this. His lecturer told him to never mention this again until he could put it to a Hollywood producer and it would sell immediately. So that's what he did and that's what happened.

The premise. Traumatised while young by being dumped in the forest by their parents, fattened up for the pot by a hideous witch whom they subsequently kill, they grow up to be witch hunters. The growing up is shown by torn pages from newspapers (with woodcuts as pictures).

Set in Germany some time after the industrial revolution has begun -H&G's weapons are too sophisticated in a steam-punk sense for it to be any earlier- and in and around a small town surrounded by forest and mountains. Local sheriff, (actor Peter Stormare), is in full crowd-rousing form as he urges them to burn an attractive young woman because she's obviously a witch.
How does he know? Because he just fucking knows, that's how he knows and you're starting to look a bit witchy to him so shut the fuck up. His rabble-rousing is interrupted by Hansel and Gretel who've been hired by the mayor to put an end to the local witch stuff. Hansel quickly explains why the attractive young woman couldn't be a witch because -after roughly examining her teeth as if she was a horse- she's too fucking attractive to be a fucking witch so stop bothering her or he'll fucking bother with you. Got it? (And if you're wondering why I'm fucking swearing so much it's because everybody in the film fucking swears all the fucking time and yes it does get a bit fucking wearing after a while.) Stormare is pretty pissed off by this and calls Gretel a whore who says nothing but abruptly steps forward, headbutts him and breaks his nose. (And you think there's going to be more to do with the attractive young woman who isn't a f.. sorry.. witch, you're right.

Okay, witches are ugly. Here's our chief witch as played by Famke Janssen (and, yes, this is her in ugly witch not just a bad mood after a night on the town mode). She's building up to create a witchpocalypse by kidnapping specific children for a ritual. Feel free to hiss and boo her, she's used to it.

I should, at this point, mention our lead actors, Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton. Renner is a mean moody action hero. Arterton is a more subdued but still mean, moody and demurely sexy action heroine. I've recently come to the conclusion that any film Gemma Arterton is in is worth watching because Gemma Arterton is in it. There's good brother-sister chemistry between them. They and their stunt doubles (Arterton, in an extra, hugs her stunt-double and sings her praises) are very convincing in the action sequences which are very well staged and there's plenty of them. 

The special effects are excellent on every level. There are some gloriously hideous witches including a pair of Siamese twins joined at the back.They can not only fight standing up but
scuttle around on all fours. (If they take turns, should that be all eights?) The gore is appropriately splattery with splattered heads, decapitations and limb-lopping by the bucket load. and what's really surprising is that much of the effects are mechanical and practical rather than cgi. Wirkola says that he used cgi to enhance rather substitute. I was amazed that Edward the Troll (the witches' servant who totes that bale of kids on his back) was mostly a man in a suit.

Incidentally, the story is cleverer than you might expect as there's a major revelation towards the end that concerns the location and their past. And it's also funny but not in the evilwitch-com sense.

This is way way effing way better than you might imagine. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll sigh, you'll go eeeurgh! Definitely my under-rated movie of the year.

(I did review this on Amazon but this is the fucking uncut and fucking drastically better version. Got it?)

(Okay, it is a load of rubbish, but it's still great well-made entertainment and I'm going to watch it again soon.)

No comments: