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Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters
  • Composed by Atli Örvarsson
  • La-La Land Records / 2013 / 48m

As is customary, I spent a considerable length of time researching this capsule review and managed to glean a whole host of information about Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters.  To save you the time of conducting a similar amount of research – time you could better spend doing any number of other activities, such as staring at the wall or clearing wax from your ear using a pencil – I am happy to summarise the film for you here.  It features the fairytale characters Hansel and Gretel but with a fascinating, unpredictable twist – they are in fact witch hunters.  That’s right!  The music for the film was composed by Icelander Atli Örvarsson, part of Hans Zimmer’s stable of composers.  His score opens very promisingly, “The Witch Hunters” being a twisted version of Danny Elfman’s style of music for Tim Burton’s fairytales, with sweet choir punctuated by electric guitars and such – hard to believe that Elfman is now part of the establishment, having once been quite the opposite!

You’d get your money’s worth of entertainment if Örvarsson had fashioned the whole score like that, but sadly from track two onwards it’s standard Remote Control stuff, generic action music dominated by electronics and guitars and sadly not featuring the kind of melodic hooks that sometimes elevate such scores into guilty pleasure territory.  There is one cool guitar riff (heard in the opening of “You Do the Bleeding”, for instance) but it’s a pretty minor thing.  The very same track does try to go off into more serious dramatic territory, but it sounds limp and uninspired.  At times it’s very hard to believe that you’re listening to music written for a major Hollywood film rather than some sort of student project – there’s no dramatic drive, no invention, and hearing the synthetic strings in unison playing an attempt at a power anthem is pretty cringeworthy even to a non-musician like me.   I guess people who don’t mind the Remote Control brand of uncreative, generic action music will possibly find some enjoyment from it, but I’m afraid any sign of creativity or quality here escaped my attention completely.  The score has been released by La-La Land on CD and digitally directly by Paramount; the two releases each features a different bonus track.  The word “bonus” here is used much in the same way as it would be when talking about a bird doing a shit on your head thirteen times before a bonus fourteenth one arrives just when you think the misery is over.

Rating: * | |

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  1. André - Cape Town. (Reply) on Friday 1 February, 2013 at 23:58

    THE EAGLE [ancient Romans in Britannia & the relationship between a soldier & his slave] first introduced me to ÖRVARSSON > he created an impressive & diverse score. He was then contracted for SEASON OF THE WITCH…the result > a very powerful symphonic / choral score featuring Goldsmithian chants. The music was available on download – but due to copyright impositions, wasn’t available in South Africa (is it possible to circumvent this irritation James ?). The posters for HANSEL & GRETAL credit ZIMMER as musical supervisor, hence the influence of Remote Control’s generic tonality & stylisation ?? I heard a few samples on Screen Archives site and wasn’t overwhelmed. The 3D version of the film opens next week in Cape Town…will view and listen to the score then.

  2. James Southall (Reply) on Saturday 2 February, 2013 at 00:21

    Probably no way round the nonsensical geographic restrictions, sadly.

  3. zahnmimres (Reply) on Saturday 2 February, 2013 at 13:13

    I enjoy it quite a bit for the fairy-tale segments he has created as in “Don’t Eat The Candy and “The Fairy Tale “. However, I agree that the action music dominated by electronics is a mess and disturbingly hurts the overall score. Though I really like his previous score for SEASON OF THE WITCH, this score is quite disappointing.

  4. Edmund Meinerts (Reply) on Saturday 2 February, 2013 at 13:55

    Once again I kind of have to take issue with the fact that your words don’t seem harsh enough to justify a one-star rating – same issue I had with your reviews of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Slayer and Red Dawn last year. Generic with a few decent moments sounds more like a two-star verdict – one star would be generic with a few awful moments.

    • James Southall (Reply) on Saturday 2 February, 2013 at 14:37

      The opening track is the only thing that prevents it being a rare “no stars” album. From track two onwards it’s pathetic.

  5. PT (Reply) on Saturday 2 February, 2013 at 15:47

    “The word “bonus” here is used much in the same way as it would be when talking about a bird doing a shit on your head thirteen times before a bonus fourteenth one arrives just when you think the misery is over.”

    LOL LOL LOL and LOL.

  6. orion_mk3 (Reply) on Saturday 2 February, 2013 at 17:06

    Bad scores with a single good track are in many ways worse than wholly bad ones–the little bit of potential peeking through, the idea that the composer *could* have hit a home run…it’s maddening. Especially with the Zimmerclones, since they often show that they’re capable of writing good music…they’re just never called upon to do so.

  7. Matt C (Reply) on Tuesday 5 February, 2013 at 06:10

    I enjoyed the movie… ridiculously fun. But the score was generic and disappointingly by-the-numbers. It gets interesting when it flirts with the Elfman fantasy element (especially in the main titles), but most of it is generic MV/RC music. Even with an organ brought in.

    I thought your rating for the score summed up my feelings for it too.

  8. Edmund Meinerts (Reply) on Monday 18 February, 2013 at 16:38

    Unfortunately, after hearing the score, I have to take back my earlier statement! This score is borderline incompetent-sounding. I think the most crippling factor is the total lack of cohesion and rhythmic flow in the action cues…they stop and start every five seconds and it gets really annoying. It’s hard to believe that the same Atli Orvarsson who wrote the surprisingly enjoyable Babylon A.D., The Eagle and Season of the Witch has been reduced to this rubbish.

  9. Joel (Reply) on Thursday 21 February, 2013 at 01:23

    Indeed. Such a shame. The opening prologue tracks were actually darn exciting, as I heard them in the film (utterly disgraceful), I was actually shocked at how much fun those opening tracks were, charming, dark, fairy-tale-worthy… I was actually oddly hopefully that maybe the score would turn out to be a surprise winner….

    and then the rest of the movie and score came. Nope.