Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters (2013)

Rated R. Our ratings: V -8; L -7; S/N -2. Running time: 1 hour 28 min.

You shall not suffer a witch to live.
Exodus 22:18 KJV

Break the arm of the wicked and evildoers; seek out their wickedness until you find none.
Psalm 10.15

Sister and brother like to dress in leather and use Jules Vern-like weapons.

2013 Paramount Pictures

Still another Hollywood reworking of an old fairy tale, this version is mercifully about the same length as a cartoon film. Thanks to incredible CGI special effects, it bends reality just as much as animated films do, with witches flying through the air, bone crunching martial arts fights, and women’s faces changing from beautiful features to cracked, disfigured features of a witch. And yes, there is also a life-like troll, but this one with a heart of gold (or should I say the heart of a Shrek?). However director and co-writer Tommy Wirkola’s film is not for the kiddies! With its graphic beheadings and stabbings and both heroine and hero using the “F” word far more than necessary, it richly deserves its R rating.

The film is set in 19th century Europe where, after their father shooed them into the woods one night and the children lost track of him and their mother, Hansel (Jeremy Renner) and Gretel (Gemma Arterton) have grown up to become bounty hunters. For a price they have been visiting numerous villages where they hunt down and kill witches that plague the area. They are equipped with marvelous rapid-fire guns and a crossbow that call to mind the advanced gadgets of the 1999 film ­Wild, Wild West, an equally unbelievable film.

This particular episode finds them opposing not only witches led by Muriel (Famke Janssen) but also the arrogant Sheriff Berringer (Peter Stormare) who is about to execute Mina (Pihia Viitala), a village woman accused of practicing witchcraft. There are seemingly an endless number of chases through the forests and knockdown drag-out fights. There is even in the village a fan boy named Ben (Thomas Mann) who has a large scrapbook of news clippings extolling the exploits of the witch hunters. Our heroes must kill Muriel and her cohorts because something called a Blood Moon is about to happen, after which Muriel will have ultimate power—or some such silliness.

All of this nonsense presumes that the Biblical worldview of demons and witches exist and that violence is the only answer to evildoers. In Psalm 10 the writer prays for God to rise up and rescue the victims and “break the arm of the wicked and evildoers.” Hansel and Gretel are dedicated to “seek out their wickedness until you find none,” but they display little of the piety of the psalmist, appearing to be more like secularized 21st century denizens than like anyone from the 19th century or of Biblical times. The only reason for not waiting until the film’s video release is that it is shown in theaters in 3-D, but believe me, this is not worth the extra charge.

For Reflection/Discussion

1. What do you think of such fantasies based on the ancient view that witches are real?

2. What do you think a modern believer can do with the old concepts of demons and spirits? (Better than spending time and money on this film is to read Walter Wink’s fine book that deals with transferring the New Testament concept of “the principalities and the powers” into modern concepts, Engaging the Powers: Discernment and Resistance in a World of Domination.

3. How has the church in the past dealt with those perceived to be witches? How has this violated the basic teachings of Christ in its pursuit of witches?

4. Judged by the methods used, how are Hansel and Gretel different from their prey? Do their ends justify their means?