Out in cinemas this week: Ever wonder what the lives of Hansel and Gretel turned out to be like when they were all grown up and that bother at the gingerbread house was all a bad childhood memory? Me neither, but the film that tells us about how they're hunting down nasty witch-covens now has got Jeremy Renner in it. Meanwhile, there's this weird movie based on a weird book, where there's a lot of food-related bizarreness, and (spoiler alert!) this guy John dies at the end. Or does he?
Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters (2013)
One side effect of the prevalence of "mockbusters" from houses like Asylum is that by the time the real movies reach cinemas the idea already feels a bit like it's been done (the schlock version was released to video a couple of weeks ago, and Syfy already did another take as well). And the curious difficulty to get the hot fairy tale action that's happening on television up onto the big screen, with Red Riding Hood and two Snow Whites hitting theaters with a thud in the last year, makes another attempt seem almost perverse. Still, Jeremy Renner knows his way around action movies by now, and Gemma Arterton shouldered her way through Prince of Persia with her dignity intact. And a script by two unlike writers, one used to working in horror and the other coming out of a long string of documentaries, might just strike the right tone to make this work without drowning in a self-conscious folk tale orgasm.
The story: In this spin on the fairy tale, Hansel and Gretel are now bounty hunters who track and kill witches all over the world. As the fabled Blood Moon approaches, the siblings encounter a new form of evil that might hold a secret to their past.
Starring: Jeremy Renner (Hansel), Gemma Arterton (Gretel), Famke Janssen (Muriel), Zoe Bell (Tall Witch), Peter Stormare (Berringer), Thomas Mann (Ben), Ingrid Bolso Berdal (Horned Witch), Robin Atkin Downes (Edward), Derek Mears (Edward), Monique Ganderton (Candy Witch), Pihla Viitala (Mina), Joanna Kulig (Red Haired Witch), Stephanie Corneliussen (Desert Witch), Christian Rubeck (Tracker Jonathan), Rainer Bock (Mayor of Augsburg), Stig Frode Henriksen, Alea Sophia Boudodimos (Young Gretel), Cedric Eich (Young Hansel).
Directed by: Tommy Wirkola (Dead Snow).
John Dies at the End (2013)
Based upon the "David Wong" novel with its own weirdly hybrid history (it started out as a free serialized ebook before being converted into a proper book, raising lots of eyebrows among those paying close attention to how books are being marketed these days), the film adaptation of John Dies at the End is itself a hybrid, mixing up all the different kinds of moments you get in sci-fi/horror/fantasy thrillers to remarkable effect. That strangest part of the story is that the film is by Don Coscarelli, and those to whom he's best known for two Eighties milestones Phantasm and The Beastmaster (or perhaps, more recently, Bubba Ho-Tep and its promised forthcoming sequel Bubba Nosferatu) might go see it just to check out what his movies look like these days.
The story: A new street drug that sends its users across time and dimensions has one drawback: some people return as no longer human. Can two college dropouts save humankind from this silent, otherworldly invasion?
Starring: Chase Williamson (Dave), Rob Mayes (John), Paul Giamatti (Arnie Blondestone), Clancy Brown (Dr. Albert Marconi), Glynn Turman (Detective), Doug Jones (Roger North), Daniel Roebuck (Largeman), Fabianne Therese (Amy), Jonny Weston (Justin White), Jimmy Wong (Fred Chu), Tai Bennett (Robert Marley), Allison Weissman (Shelly), Ethan Erickson (Sergeant McElroy).
Directed by: Don Coscarelli.