Now that we’re about a full week into the new year it shouldn’t come as a surprise that The Asylum have struck with their first official mockbuster of 2013 and I have to hand it to them considering several weeks back they were legally forced by MGM and Warner Bros. to postpone the release of the mockbuster formerly known as Age of the Hobbits (it looks like once the court’s restraining order is lifted The Asylum plans to release the film as newly re-titled Clash of the Empires). As I stated in my review of Bigfoot this isn’t the first time The Asylum have been threatened by the bigger/greedier Hollywood film companies over the matter of their low budget features using similar titles. Spitting in the face of adversity The Asylum weren’t about to be intimated by these bullies and they’ve managed to pick themselves up after being kicked to the ground and quite admirably they’ve cleaned off the dust and dirt with every intention of soldiering on.
In true mockbusting tradition while Hollywood intends to glamorize the classic fairy tale of Hansel & Gretel by turning the siblings into a pair of established witch hunters The Asylum have decided to head off in a completely different direction sticking with a much more faithful interpretation by setting it in modern times and then injecting pure shock & terror into the mix. Something that immediately caught my eye once the trailer hit was The Asylum cleverly suggesting that before horror icons like Wes Craven and John Carpenter became household names there were The Brothers Grimm. It was sort of a bold statement to make yet if anyone were to really take a detailed look at even the most innocent of children’s fairy tales they contain some very evil intentions whether its a jealous queen hell bent on killing her stepdaughter with a poisoned apple or a cannibalistic old hag of a witch trying to lure children into an oven all it takes is buckets full of blood and gore and then the seed is planted for something that could quickly grow into a very ambitious/unique little horror flick.
The one thing with any of The Asylum’s mockbusters is the unpredictability of never quite knowing what you’re setting yourself up for. A lot of thrill seekers might say that the ultimate adrenaline rush is running with bulls or swimming with sharks or even jumping out of an airplane but that’s just like going to an amusement park and wasting all your tickets riding the bumper cars compared to the risk that die hard B-Movie fans take when they try to tackle any of The Asylum’s film catalog. On the one hand you could end up watching something so painfully excruciating it could throw you into a catatonic state for months on end. Then there are those rare occurrences where the mad scientist creates something so extremely insane even though it was concocted for bad intentions you still can’t stop yourself from looking on in wonderment as thoughts begin to correlate and in an instant you find yourself asking – Why can’t I turn away?
The Asylum’s version of Hansel & Gretel boldly distances itself from any childhood innocence of the original interpretation and in its place we’re thrown into an unnerving dark and dingy mindset. Emotions are put at ease for a little bit as we meet Gretel a smart, attractive, and optimistic teenager with her heart set on traveling the world. She works in a restaurant called the Gingerbread House for a ‘sweet’ older woman named Lilith. When Hansel enters into the fold viewers quickly learn that he is the polar opposite of his sister having a very brash personality the only thing he cares for is himself opting to get caught up in his video games rather than meeting his family for an important dinner. Offended by his father’s recent decision to marry a younger woman Hansel storms off to a secret hiding place in a nearby forest that only Gretel, himself, and their deceased mother know of and from here on out things go from bad to worse (much, much worse).
It’s not very often one can say that an Asylum film consists of atmosphere however if you’re going to bite the bullet and risk watching Hansel & Gretel you might be surprised with the outcome. I’m not lying when I say this is probably the best looking Asylum production and their set designer should be commended. Here is another low budget feature that I’ve reviewed in the past week where there was a bit of a Texas Chainsaw Massacre influence going on as the evil witch’s cellar looks like a place Leatherface would have no problem shacking up in (either there must be something in the water or filmmakers are unwittingly trying and cash in on the big screen release of Texas Chainsaw 3D as well). From the acting perspective Dee Wallace took what could have been a very generic performance and sinisterly made her own (boy how Elliot’s mom must have fallen on hard times for her to become this vile). You can tell she was having a blast turning up the evil and that’s how a majority of The Asylum’s better films have begun to receive wider acclaim from bad movie aficionados considering if you have at least one quality the likes of this that can hold your attention for 90 minutes then you’re guaranteed a fun night in front of the television. As for the two main leads Brent Lydic’s Hansel was an outright a**hole through and through, nevertheless it was one of those acting jobs Asylum faithful will most likely slowly love to hate. Stephanie Greco’s Gretel did a fair job of acting as a counterweight to the phenomenal Dee Wallace. It’s not every day the main heroine can nearly match the antagonist punch for punch but than again this particular girl isn’t all sugar and spice and everything that’s nice.
The Final Verdict: Could it actually be possible that with every passing year The Asylum is finally beginning to make somewhat enjoyable films? In my humble opinion they are. With as many weird and crazy ideas that The Asylum are churning out into the direct to video market sometimes its best to keep things simplistic because when this happens everything slowly begins to come together and gel. Would Hollywood have taken a renowned children’s story and cranked up the intensity to eleven? Probably not but like the saying goes big risks equal big rewards and Hansel & Gretel piles on some unique kills with enough red corn syrup to make even the most devote horror hound giddy. Mainstream film fans will undeniably try and crap all over this mockbuster but for us cheesy B-Movie fans this makes for recommended viewing. The Asylum have kicked 2013 off with a bang and as the year progresses time will tell whether or not they’ll be able to keep the quality level in check.
IMDB Rating: 2.6/10
Direct To Video Dungeon: 6.5/10