Quick Take: Matt digs into Asylum's knock off and likes Dee Wallace and not much else.
Have you ever noticed how whenever there’s a big Hollywood film hitting theaters, there’s also a direct-to-video knock off version already available on DVD and Blu-ray? Those cinematic works of art are usually courtesy of The Asylum; a movie company that’s built its name and, sadly, its reputation on taking advantage of ill-informed viewers for years. Just in time to cash in on the recent theatrical release of Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, The Asylum has unleashed their latest home offering; Hansel &Gretel.
Unlike the Hollywood version’s reimagining of the brother and sister duo as action heavy monster hunters with diabetes (It’s true, check out our Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters review), this Hansel & Gretel brings the story to the modern day where, yes, they are actually called Hansel and Gretel. While Hansel (Brent Lydic) is busy wasting his time playing FPS games and being an insufferable douche, Gretel (Stephanie Greco) dreams about leaving her small town life behind whilst toiling away at a local diner run by an older woman named Lilith (Dee Wallace) who is famous for her “meat” pies. That’s right. Lilith. Nothing weird about that, right?
Despite being all grown up, Hansel flips out when their dad tells them he’s going to be marrying his new girlfriend and that they’ll be moving away. No more free ride, Hansel! This leads him off into the woods to possibly punch-dance out his rage, Footloose style (He doesn’t. Dear lord, I wish he had though). He definitely gets his foot caught in a bear trap though. Gretel finds him and they limp off to a nearby homestead that happens to be inhabited by Lilith. Shocker!
It’s not long before Lilith has drugged the already barely mobile Hansel and dumped him into her basement of young teens/future food with Gretel’s nosy detective routine sending her down right behind him. The rest of the film becomes Lilith and her two giant redneck sons against Hansel, Gretel, the remaining teens and anyone else that can show up and be dispatched of quickly.
I’m going to be straight up; this movie is pretty terrible. There’s parts where characters are apparently impervious to pain and a laugh out loud scene where characters run all the way up to a giant chasm with no obvious connection only to discover a very tiny sign that reads “Bridge Out” and THAT’S what clues them in. There isn’t even a bridge there!
That’s not to say it doesn’t have its moments. It has a fairly strong opening with some random girl trying to (unsuccessfully) escape, losing some fingernails, flesh and her sanctity when it is revealed how Lilith’s boys “prepare” the meat. There’s also some legitimately good gore throughout the proceedings. One scene in particular stands out. Lilith has put some sort of hallucinogen in the air, and everyone starts having these bizarre visuals in their head, including one of the characters eating their own bodies because they are so delicious. Excellent ideas and practical work, for sure, it’s just sandwiched in between some offensively bad performances.
One person that does stand out is Dee Wallace. She is a legitimate actress with a wealth of good work under her belt. She completely commits to her role and, despite what she is given, does bring some credibility to the movie that it would otherwise sorely lack. Stephanie Greco’s turn as Gretel is also above par of her other costars. Given some better material, I think she could put on some genuinely good performances.
For being a direct-to-Blu release, I honestly was expecting Hansel & Gretel to look pretty bad. Much to my surprise, it’s got a fairly solid 1080p MPEG-4 AVC transfer. Colors often are a bit drab, but this seems more in line with the style of the film itself. Flesh tones look natural and there’s a fair amount of texture throughout. Some of the black levels in the night time scenes show a little roughness, but other than that, it’s a solid HD transfer.
With a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio Mix on the disc, the audio aspect of Hansel & Gretel isn’t too shabby, either. It does seem a tad uneven in certain scenes, but overall it finds a nice balance. There’s some effective ambient noise during the dungeon scenes. The dialogue is centered and consistent, despite there being a lot of yelling in the film. Nothing to write home about, but it is a solid track nonetheless.
Beyond the Feature
Hansel & Gretel comes to Blu-ray with a fair amount of extras; more than most releases from The Asylum get. Most notable is an Audio Commentary with Director Anthony Ferrante, Actors Stephanie Greco and Brent Lydic and Writer Jose Prendes. It’s a surprisingly enjoyable commentary with everyone participating, sharing stories about making the film, the differences between the early ideas and the finished product, filming locales and such. It’s far more entertaining the film itself, that’s for sure. The rest are just kind of odd or nearly unwatchable. There’s a random collection of scenes that someone mistakenly labeled a Gag Reel and Hell’s Crafty, a “spoof” of the angry, yelling cook shows that doesn’t come remotely close to inciting a laugh.
The following is a complete list of all included special features:
- Audio Commentary with Director Anthony Ferrante, Actors Stephanie Greco and Brent Lydic and Writer Jose Prendes
- Making of Featurette (HD, 6 min)
- Gag Reel (HD, 2 min)
- Hell’s Crafty (HD, 3 min)
- Asylum Trailers
Overall, I can’t say that I recommend The Asylum’s Hansel & Gretel. There are definitely some good ideas in there that, in other hands, could have turned this into a somewhat decent film. What the film is left with is some bad acting, horrendous dialogue, a disregard for any bit of realism with some good gore and Dee Wallace mixed in between. It’s not even bad in a fun way. It’s just outright bad. The disc does feature a surprisingly decent video transfer and audio mix and a few special features. Hansel & Gretel is a rental at best and is not, as the cover would lead you to believe, “A Damn Good Horror Movie.”
– Matt Hardeman
Shop for Hansel & Gretel on Blu-ray for a discounted price at Amazon.com.