I have a weakness for cheesy, "so bad they're good" low budget horror, sci-fi or action movies. I watch'em so you don't have to!
"Witchslayer Gretl" - Directed by: Mario Azzopardi
Hello and welcome once again to IT CAME FROM THE BARGAIN BIN, the Hub series that loves low budget cinema more than life itself. Today's installment comes to us not from the bargain DVD bin, but from our friends at the SyFy Channel, who capped off a recent day long marathon of fantasy themed movies with the big-deal premiere of their latest "original movie," the intriguingly titled "Witchslayer Gretl," which seemed to promise a new twist on the classic fairy tale "Hansel and Gretl."
Now, if you're a regular viewer of SyFy's Original Movies (guilty), you probably already know not to expect Shakespeare, because most of them are pretty terrible. I've found that many SyFy films manage to achieve an entertainingly "good" kind of bad, but not this time. Sitting through this Canadian-made cheapie was more like a two hour root canal. The acting is bad, the script is worse, and the stilted dialogue sounds like it's being read off of the back of a Medieval Times menu. Not even the presence of former "90210" babe Shannen Doherty - whom I've had a crush on for over twenty years - was enough to make Witchslayer Gretl watchable. (I did, however, find it somewhat humorous that Shannen still can't seem to escape "witch" roles, more than a decade after she split from TV's "Charmed.")
It would appear that "Witch Slayer Gretl" had its share of problems prior to its release. When SyFy Channel first aired the film in February of 2012, there was no director listed in the opening credits (that's never a good sign!), nor on its IMDb page. When the movie was released on DVD a few months later, the director credit has been amended so we know who to blame for this atrocity: Mario Azzopardi, who's worked on lots of genre TV shows and made-for-cable films. The film's title had also apparently been changed numerous times prior to its SyFy airing, from simply "Gretl" to "Gretl: Witch Hunter" and finally the current "Witch Slayer Gretl." If you watch the film you'll quickly realize that none of these titles are technically accurate anyway, so they might as well have titled it "Hansel and Gretl 2: Electric Boogaloo." Whatever you want to call it, this movie comes off like a fourteen year old girl's fairy tale fan fiction gone horribly wrong.
(Some spoilers may follow, but quite frankly you might as well let me ruin the movie for you in order to spare yourself the pain of actually watching it)
Our story opens in an unnamed fairy tale forest (the Black Forest? Sherwood Forest? Forrest Gump? Whatever) where a blacksmith and his hot daughter Ehren (Emilie Ullerup) are settling down to dinner when they're suddenly attacked by a warlock (Jefferson Brown) and some witches in red evening gowns (yes, really) who kill the old man and are about to kidnap the girl. Fortunately the day is saved thanks to the timely intervention of ...dun dun dun... THE WITCH SLAYER (Paul McGillion, "Stargate: Atlantis") and his trusty sidekick Lara (Sarain Boylan). The pair rescues the innocent girl and explain to her that she was targeted by the Witch Queen because even though she herself may not realize it, Ehren possesses strong magical powers. Apparently the Witch Queen (head of the Warlock's coven) is in need of a new, magically-strong body to take over, as her current body is failing her. Or something. The Witch Slayer, of course, is sworn to destroy the Queen and the Coven for reasons known only to himself (though bits & pieces of his reasoning are revealed to us via flashbacks throughout the film) and he figures having the young, powerful Ehren as an ally could be useful so they invite her along on their quest. Lara - a former witch who somehow lost her powers and her memories before falling in with the Witch Slayer - agrees to teach Ehren how to harness her witchly powers for good as they travel along. Got all that?
Now on DVD!
"Are We There Yet?"
So our Terrific Trio tromps aimlessly through the woods for a while, narrowly avoiding several more encounters with the Evening Gown Witches and a hilariously awful CGI gargoyle while the Witch Queen (Doherty) broods, snarls and gives orders in her cavern hideaway. Eventually Witch Slayer goes and gets himself captured and when he's brought into the presence of the Queen, figures out that she is, in fact, his long lost sister Gretl. Yeah, you got that right, in what I guess is supposed to be a shocking revelation, the "Witch Slayer" is Hansel himself. Maybe it's me, but I seem to remember the old "Hansel and Gretl' story ending with both kids safely finding their way out of the forest and back home safely, but in whatever alternate universe this movie takes place in, Hansel and Gretl were separated in the forest on that fateful day and Gretl's body was co-opted by the Witch Queen. Hansel grew up, became a Witch Slayer, and has been hunting for his lost sister ever since. Ooooookay then!! Hansel/Slayer cuts a deal with the Warlock, who has ambitions of running the Coven himself, and directs Hansel to the hidden tomb where the witch's "real" body lies. If Hansel can destroy her body, then Gretl's soul will return to its proper place... I think. I have to admit that I was getting seriously drowsy by this point.
One underwhelming tomb-battle scene later, our poor hot apprentice witch Ehren has unfortunately bitten the dust, but Hansel has succeeded in destroying the Witch's body and Gretl's soul is back where it belongs. The Warlock gets his just desserts for his treachery, and Gretl, Lara, and Hansel head back off into the forest, because they know there are lots more witches out there who need a good slaying. Good Lord, does this mean the film was intended to be the first of a series? Let's hope not.
Summin' this thing up...
In case I haven't made it painfully obvious, "Witch Slayer Gretl" is a truly bad movie, even by SyFy Channel standards...and mind you, this is coming from a guy who sat and watched "DinoCroc Vs. SuperGator" on SyFy a week earlier, and loved it.
Even if tales of fairies 'n' witches 'n' spells are your "thing," I doubt that this flick will satisfy anyone's fantasy-film cravings. Aside to Shannen Doherty: I still love ya, babe, but whoever told you to sign up for this movie is definitely not your friend.
Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on January 03, 2014:
^^ Hahaha, and the whole movie is full of howlers like that...
holdmycoffee on January 02, 2014:
"Oh no, are we lost?"
"I know the way backwards, but not forward."
That pretty much sums it up.
Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on June 21, 2012:
Updated with a pic of the newly-released DVD cover plus the name of this atrocity's mysterious director is finally revealed!!
Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on March 27, 2012:
It's truly a dog of a film isn't it? Thanks for your comment.
zbot on March 27, 2012:
OMG I was just watching this and googled your article during the ad - "evening gown witches" so funny. It just came back from commercial with the warlock giving the map to the tomb to Hansel. The map appeared to be a piece of chamois with magic marker scribbled all over it. Hilarious!
Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on February 29, 2012:
Rob from Oviedo, FL on February 29, 2012:
Hi Freddy; One of the great consistancies in the world is that the sy-fy channel will make movies that Ed Wood would be emabarrassed to make. I've always been attracted to Shannon doherty but I'm not sure I could have sat through that. (Maybe she was cursed for leaving 'Charmed')
These guys at the sy-fy channel should have watched the Hansel and Gretel episode of "Once Upon a Time".
I always enjoy your peeks into the bargain basement world of show business.
Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on February 28, 2012:
Haha, I'm sure Shannen got paid more than the rest of the cast combined.
Interestingly enough, IMDb has a listing for a big-budget film called "Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters" (starring Jeremy Renner and Famke Janssen, among others) that's currently in production for a 2013 release... I get the feeling that the people who made this SyFy flick got wind of that film and decided to beat them to the punch with their own version.
Karen on February 28, 2012:
No problem. Believe me, I'm astounded that my life is apparently so sad that I not only watched it, but retained information about it. I'm a big SyFy Movie fan, but this one was bad, really bad. It was an interesting premise, but I guess most of their budget must've gone to pay Shannen!
Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on February 27, 2012:
Thanx for the corrections, Karen -- will fix. I didn't keep notes while watching the film so I had trouble keeping all those medieval-style names straight afterwards.
Karen on February 27, 2012:
It's definitely a bad, bad movie, but the names should be right - Lara was Hansel's sidekick, Thorne was the witch killed at the beginning of the movie, and Ehren was the blacksmith's daughter.
Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on February 26, 2012:
Brian, if I had to choose between this flick and the "Twilight" movie... I'd probably opt for the Twilight movie. And that's sayin' something!!!
Brian L. Marshall on February 26, 2012:
I'm beginning to think you OWED your wife that viewing of Twilight after all this terrible cinema you subject her to. :)