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Hansel & Gretel (2013)
The Asylum Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 1/8/2013
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 1/30/2013
Are you familiar with The Asylum? The company, which was recently profiled in Entertainment Weekly, specializes in releasing low-budget direct-to-video movies which are meant to compete with major blockbusters. (Some would say that there titles are supposed to confuse unknowing video shoppers.) You may have seen titles like Transmorphers or Alien vs. Hunter at Redbox and wondered what was up with them. The Asylum continues to release titles like this and they show no signs of stopping, as the newly released Hansel & Gretel proves.
Hansel & Gretel takes place in a picturesque small town. Gretel (Stephanie Greco) works in a candy store called "The Gingerbread House", which is run by a kindly woman named Lilith (Dee Wallace). Gretel goes to meet her father, Brandon (Steve Hanks) and his girlfriend, Ruby (Trish Coren). After a time, her ne'er do well brother, Hansel (Brent Lydic) shows up. Brandon announces that he and Ruby are getting married and they plan to sell his house and travel the world. This upsets Hansel, as it means that he's have to get a job and find a new place to live. He storm offs into the woods. Gretel goes after him and finds that Hansel has stepped into a bear trap. She frees him and they seek help, finding a nearby house in the woods. And who lives in that house? Why, it's Lilith. She gives Hansel some medicine and then offers Gretel tea, which puts her to sleep. When Gretel awakens, Lilith explains that Hansel has gone to the hospital. But, he hasn't. Hansel is in a dingy basement along with several other prisoners, all of whom are waiting to be cooked by a witch. When Gretel learns what is going on, she begins to put together a plan to rescue Hansel.
Clearly, Hansel & Gretel was timed to be released around the same time that the big budget action film Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters hit theaters.
I have never seen one of The Asylum's umm...competing...movies, so this was my first experience with their product. I don't know how closely their films typically resemble their counterparts, but this one takes an approach which is different from the Jeremy Renner vehicle.
This Hansel & Gretel is a modern-day retelling of the original fairy tales from The Brothers Grimm. Screenwriter Jose Prendes has used that story as a guide and included familiar facets such as the gingerbread house, the witch, people being fattened up before they are cooked, the stepmother, and the trail of bread crumbs. I wouldn't go so far to say that the screenplay is clever, but it's clear that Prendes made a list of what he wanted to carry over from the original story and he's found some fun ways to include these things. Of course, the script also has some boneheaded moments. The way in which Hansel runs off into the woods is rather corny, as is his run-in with the bear trap. Two villains in addition to the witch are introduced about halfway through the movie and they really don't add anything to the film. The ending is predictable and didn't really fit the tone of the rest of the movie.
I would not go so far as to say that Hansel & Gretel is a good movie, but based on what I've read and the trailers which I've seen, it's most likely better than The Asylum's usual production. Director Anthony C. Ferrante brings some clout to the film, as he directed the impressive 2005 film Boo. With Hansel & Gretel he keeps things moving along at a nice pace, despite the fact that there really isn't enough story to fill the 90-minute running time. Judging by the trailers, many of The Asylum's movies contain questionable CG effects, typically in the form of ridiculous monsters. We don't get any of that here. There is some gore in the third act, and as Ferrante has done special effects makeup in the past, he most likely insisted on practical effects, despite the film's low budget and brief shooting schedule. The acting won't win any awards, but Dee Wallace's presence adds to the movie and no one seems to be grasping for their lines.
Hansel & Gretel may be seen a "cash grab" movie, but trust me, I've seen movies which were far worse. (You want to talk about a terrible movie which was trying to capitalize on the popularity of another film? Then look no further thanSnow White: A Deadly Summer, one of the worst movies which I've ever seen.) At least Hansel & Gretel tries to be clever and attempts to bring something to each scene. No, this is nothing like it's big budget namesake, but if you're in the mood for a cheesy movie, you can do a lot worse.
Hansel & Gretel doesn't feel the need to have "implied" cannibalism on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of The Asylum Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 20 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing no grain and no defects from the source material. The project was presumably shot on HD equipment, as it delivers a crisp image. The colors look good and the image is never overly dark or bright. Nor is it soft, as the level of detail remains constant. The depth is fairly good, especially in the exterior shots. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 3.8 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are pretty good, as we get some examples of sounds which are coming from off-screen. The subwoofer effects are nicely done and constantly appear to punctuate the "scare" scenes. The surround effects are somewhat meek and aren't as overt as the other effects.
The Hansel & Gretel Blu-ray Disc contains a few extra features. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY with Director Anthony C. Ferrante, Stephanie Greco, Brent Lydic, and Writer Jose Prendes. "Making of Featurette" (6 minutes) contains comments from the writer and director and a few of the actors, most of whom talk about the story and how it relates to the original Brothers Grimm tale. This also includes some on-set footage. We get a 2-minute GAG REEL. "Hell's Crafty" (3 minutes) is a spoof of the TV show Hell's Kitchen where an angry chef rates the film set's craft services table. A TRAILER for the movie (along with many other trailers) is also included.
Review by Mike Long. Copyright 2013.