Ah, The Asylum. The “mockbuster” experts have had some legal troubles recently. Back in the spring of 2012, after Universal filed suit over American Battleship, the company changed the name to American Warships. Last month, in response to legal pressure from Warner Bros., The Asylum changed the name of Age of the Hobbits to Clash of the Empires.
No such worries with Hansel & Gretel, not to be confused with Paramount’s Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, hitting theaters nationwide on January 25th. The Asylum version goes light on the witch hunting though.
After a brief opening that features a young woman being cooked alive, we pay a visit to The Gingerbread House, a lovely little bakery in a quaint small town. Lilith, played by horror icon Dee Wallace, runs the place, and little effort is made to hide the fact that she is up to no good on the side. Gretel (Stephanie Greco) works for Lilith while her brother, Hansel (Brent Lydic), is a surly slacker who spends the majority of his free time playing video games.
After their father tells them that he will be marrying his much younger girlfriend, Hansel throws a fit and runs off into the nearby woods. Gretel knows where he likes to hide out and goes after him. When Hansel stumbles upon a bear trap, the siblings need to find help fast. They see a cabin nearby and discover that Lilith resides there. Helpful at first, her true colors are soon revealed.
Along with her two hulking sons, Lilith kidnaps and cooks young people before serving them at her bakery. Her delicious meat pies are famous, and human meat is the secret ingredient. Hansel and Gretel, chained up in the cabin’s basement along with a few other unlucky young folks, are being fattened up with sweets before they end up as meat pies.
If you have seen an Asylum movie, you know what to expect. Hansel & Gretel offers no real surprises but does have its charms. Wallace appears to be enjoying herself and hams it up shamelessly. Watching her go bonkers, chasing people with a machete and slaughtering those who threaten her secret, is a lot of fun.
It doesn’t skimp on the gore either, and some of the effects are pretty good. One inspired sequence, with Lilith practicing a little witchcraft and tricking her victims, has Hansel eat himself prior to pulling out his intestines while another character tries to navigate a room full of razor-sharp wires with little success. There are also healthy doses of intentional and unintentional humor, which keep things lively.
Unfortunately, with the true nature of Lilith revealing itself about 10 minutes in, Hansel & Gretel is hit and miss throughout the next 80 minutes. For every scene with Wallace going nuts or nasty blood & guts, there is one that feels like padding. It can be painfully dull at times, like when the action shifts to Hansel and Gretel’s father and a nice local cop searching for them, or the victims suddenly talking about their career goals in between screaming for help.
The budget is low, it seems to have been whipped together in a hurry, the performances are inconsistent, and the story is nothing special. But if you have ever enjoyed an Asylum offering in the past, you’ll have an OK time with Hansel & Gretel. See it before the big-budget version so you can compare and contrast.
Also, one somewhat interesting side note. The music was composed by Alan Howarth, whose name genre fans should recognize from his work on John Carpenter movies and Halloween sequels.