Saturday, May 17, 2014

MAY-DE TO BE MOCKED - Hansel & Gretel (2013)

Note: Throughout the month of May I will be watching Mockbusters, those low-budget movies which are made purely to cash in on a recent successful blockbuster. I call this May-de to be Mocked! 

Hansel & Gretel (2013)
Director: Anthony C Ferrante
Starring: Dee Wallace, Stephanie Greco, Brent Lydic
Format: Streaming (Youtube)

Plot: A modern retelling of the classic tale has brother and sister Hansel (Lydic) and Gretel (Greco) being captured by an old woman (Wallace) who runs a bakery called The Gingerbread House and has tasty pies made with "special" meat.

After doing a bit of research, it appears the prize for most "mockbustered" movie in a calendar year goes to Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters in 2013. The big budget Jeremy Renner special effects actioner (which incidentally I liked well enough, even if it was a bit silly) spurned not one, not two, but three namesakes! There's Hansel & Gretel: Warriors of Witchcraft, Hansel & Gretel Get Baked (!) and this, the simplest-named of the three, produced on the quick by The Asylum.

I had been planning to watch this one earlier during the May-de to be Mocked marathon, but for the past week my Netflix has stopped working on my WDTV Live. I can still Netflix it on my laptop, but where's the fun in that? Luckily I discovered that some generous soul has uploaded this movie in full onto Youtube, which is how I finally checked it out.

Like most of The Asylum's work, there's no denying this was made in the hope that people would mistakenly pick this one up thinking it was big budget one. And reading some of the "reviews" on IMDB, the tactic seems to have worked, with several people complaining about renting this and being confused when Jeremy Renner didn't show up.

However, I'm pleased to say that this is a mockbuster in name only. It's nothing like Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters. Whereas that one is based in medieval times and features a pair of wise-cracking brother and sister witch hunters taking on supercharged witches, this one is set in modern times and has little in the way of supernatural content. About the only similarity is the brother and sister are called Hansel and Gretel, and there's witches.

But, without wanting to give too much away, if you're expecting magical crones riding about on broomsticks here, you'll be disappointed. This is less a tale about supernatural magic and more of a mix of Motel Hell and Wrong Turn baked in a slasher pastry shell.

I think this might just be the first straight-up horror movie I've seen from The Asylum, without any scifi overtones and certainly no "monster". IMDB lists the budget as $135,000, a fifth of the budget of the last Asylum movie I reviewed, Alien vs Hunter. I guess cutting back on the number of washed up actors (here there's only genre veteran Dee Wallace) and not having to employ someone to make shitty CGI graphics really does save on the dough.

Speaking of Wallace (CUJO, THE HOWLING etc), she makes this movie what it is. Wallace channels her ET mom role as motherly Lillith in the early proceedings, before going full-on psycho in a performance she seems to be having a lot of fun with, spouting lines like "Be quiet or I'll cut your balls off and make you watch".

The rest of the acting isn't too bad, and the lighting and sets are better than what you usually see in one of this company's movies. Hell, most of the time while watching I actually forgot this was an Asylum movie. I'd also be remiss if I didn't mention the gore, which is pretty good and thankfully of the practical effect kind.

Is it a good movie? Well, no. But it kept me entertained from start to finish. The plot isn't anything too special, but keeps from being entirely predictable and throws in the odd spot of weirdness (scenes involving hallucinogenic candies and string that cuts like razor wire spring to mind).

Not that this is necessarily a glowing endorsement, but this is the best movie produced by The Asylum that I've seen so far. Check it out if you're looking to fill some time or are a big fan of Dee Wallace.

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