In the late 80s and early 90s, Lucio Fulci lent his name to a series of low-budget horror films that all open with the dubious title of “Lucio Fulci presenta”. Just how much Fulci had to do with these gory stinkers, I’m not so sure. He apparently “supervised” the productions, though who knows what that means. Of all the films under the “Lucio Fulci presenta” umbrella, Hansel e Gretel seems to attract the best reviews (albeit few rising above lukewarm) and there has been some suggestion that Fulci perhaps served as an uncredited director alongside Giovanni Simonelli. This led me to believe that this might in fact be the best of the bunch. It’s not. Oh god, it’s not.
HANSEL E GRETEL
Italy, 1990, Giovanni Simonelli
While this sounds like a pretty incredible set-up, and I apologise if that piqued your interest, Hansel e Gretel is outstandingly dull. Hansel and Gretel’s revenge is not particularly inspired. They simply show up. Their eyes glow. Then the villains trip and fall into something deadly or shoot themselves in the face. Admittedly the latter is pretty funny.
I can’t remember the last time I watched a film with such piss weak death scenes. A woman falls into a pool and instantly drowns. Another guy (with the hysterical name of Stanko) falls into some sort of pit and sinks to his death in what I guess is supposed to be quicksand. (He conveniently floats to the top in order for his body to be discovered later.) Someone else falls over. Just falls over and fucking dies. The film’s first death is hysterical and spectacular and involves a lawnmower, a kneeling screaming man and an animal carcass.
The only somewhat decent gruesome moment (that certainly brings to mind Fulci) is a bit of eyeball violence. That said, it comes out of nowhere and doesn’t really make any sort of sense. It’s inappropriately inflicted on an innocent old lady though, so that’s fun.
Giovanni Simonelli has many films to his name as a writer (including this), but Hansel e Gretel is his only film as a director. It shows. Every scene is sluggishly paced. The acting is lifeless and sometimes downright befuddling. Though it runs at a short ninety minutes, Hansel e Gretel drones on and on and on and on. There’s zero plot. We’re basically just watching a series of deaths, which would be great, if it wasn’t so poorly executed.
At least Hansel e Gretel is inept enough to illicit a few laughs. With its utterly empty plot, absurd characters decisions (why doesn’t the protagonist policewoman arrest everyone when she finds out they’re child murderers?!) and ridiculous ending, it’s hard not to be slightly entertained. There’s also what could well be the single greatest moment of lazy scene blocking where a character lurks not-so-ominously in an apparently hidden spot where he would clearly be in plain view of everyone in the scene. Check him out in the bottom left-hand corner…
You’re likely thinking I’m being far too harsh on this inoffensive little film. You’re right. I probably am. I’ve been much more lenient with far worse films, and Hansel e Gretel isn’t entirely worthless. It’s just that after watching The Murder Secret (1988) from the same “Lucio Fulci presenta” series, I expected a more entertaining and grimier experience. It’s hard to say whether Fulci at any point sat in the director’s chair during the production of Hansel e Gretel. My guess is no. Though Fulci was not at the top of his game in 1990, his directorial flourishes could still be seen in even his cheapest work. None of those flourishes are apparent in Hansel e Gretel.
Hansel e Gretel is sadly (?) only available on DVD in Italian with no subtitles. However, some lovely person has made fan subs, which can be found on the net.