"Burn Em All!"

So, since it’s Halloween… lets talk about this red band trailer for “Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters,”  which looks about as agood as these “stupid on purpose” genre riffs get. Specifically… is it at all “weird” that I find this in somewhat bad taste?

What I mean is… I totally “get” that they’re just riffing on the familiar fairytale (LOVE the gag with the milk bottles) and that 0.00000% of this is meant to be taken seriously, but… they MUST be aware that “Witch” isn’t strictly a fictional, made-up thing like vampires or zombies or whatnot, right? That there’s an actual, recognized religion (several of them, in fact) in the 21st Century world that calls it’s practice “Witchcraft” and it’s adherents “Witches,” right? I mean, this cannot be NEWS to anyone making a big-budget American fantasy/horror movie, yes?

I know it’s kind of a weird area, since Wicca etc. names itself AFTER the historical/mythic version of Witches/Witchcraft and not the other way around, but still… the whole jokey “the only good witch is a dead witch” thing kinda rubs me the wrong way. Maybe I’m oversensitive to this, having known and been friends with more than a few real Witches in my time, but it seems kind of weird to not be qualifying them as “evil witches” here, fairytale or not.

I dunno, maybe I’m nuts… but this feels, to me, just a little bit like having “The Wandering Jew” show up as a monster in something and saying it’s okay because it was an actual 13th Century legend. I don’t know that it’s a huge deal (any Wiccans and/or Witchcraft-identifying neo-pagans want to chime in?) but it feels odd in the 21st Century – regardless of context, can you see someone making a movie called “Christian Hunter” or “Muslim Hunter?”

59 thoughts on “"Burn Em All!"

  1. Anonymous says:

    It is a simple fact of the matter that people just do not care. I mean how many horror movies alone can you think of that have the main baddy be some “Pagan god” or something of that ilk. Hell they just had it a few weeks ago with Sinister, (any opinion on that?) Simple fact of the matter is people just do not care about anything that is not Judaism, Christianity, or Islam. Because you know, those are the only religions that can be offended.


  2. Anonymous says:

    my opinion on the whole 'political correctness' thing is usually that people shouldn't generally go out of their way to be dicks to each other, but neither should they be generally obligated to go out of their way not to be dicks to each other.

    where that philosophy comes in here, is that while there are modern religions who's founders & adherents have chosen to associate themselves with the mythological creatures known as 'witches', that doesn't mean the rest of us should have to change or alter said mythology just to avoid hurting their feelings. the mythology was here first, so if they don't like being associated with it they should call themselves something else.

    anton levay chose to call the religion he founded 'the church of satan' despite having no supernatural components or beliefs at all, should horror movies then be barred from using satanic cults or the mythological 'satan' for their villain?


  3. Jake says:

    They named themselves after the mythological witches, they really shouldn't complain given that the negative connotation with the word was well known at the beginning of these modern “witch” beliefs.


  4. Merrick_HLC says:

    Yeah the term existed before modern “witches” did.

    Also if you want to go far enough ALL forms of classic 'monsters' but maybe Frankenstein wouldn't be fair game.

    There ARE people who are convinced they're vampires of some sort (both blood drinking & energy sucking sorts.)

    There's people who claim they are actual werewolves.

    Both those groups tend to favor closer to the classic monster type than Wiccans do to Witches.

    If Witches are no longer fair game, then neither should be Werewolves or Vampires.


  5. Varya says:

    I don't know, personally I've always had a problewm with glorifying witch-hunters not because of the modern day religion, but the millions of innocent excrcuted for witchcraft. It's basically gloryfying a real life mass murder. Still, I don't think it's really offensive, and I hope I get to enjoy a gloriously stupid monster movie.


  6. Larry says:

    Well, to this day people are getting killed for being witches. And obviously the people killing them is already believing that witches exist and that they are totally and irremediably evil.


  7. Cyrus says:

    Well, the movie does indeed play historical atrocities for laughs, whether or not it makes any genuine attempt at satire remains to be seen. I'm not holding my breath for something as smart as Mel Brooks' Spanish Inquisition-themed dance number, but I'm willing to let the “so stupid, it's harmless” defense slide.


  8. Anonymous says:

    Bob: still waiting for you to offer a defense of Obama's kill list, drone strikes, indefinite detention, civil liberties violations, and other things you'd be raking him over the coals over if he was a republican. Answer me, hypocrite. And don't give me this whole “he's leading me towards a more progressive future” bullshit you always spew. Progress does not have to entail innocent people suffering and dying.


  9. Dave says:

    Oh jeez, we had to take down some of our Halloween decorations at work because some entitled prig decided that the cartoon cardboard witches were offensive to her creed. It's ridiculous. The image of the cackling crone in a pointy hat stirring a cauldron or whatever isn't “insulting”, it's just goofy and fun, and these *precious* so-called modern-day witches need to get off their high broomsticks and take a chill pill.

    I mean, seriously. This is like the Halloween version of outraged atheists demanding Christmas decorations to be taken down. Let people have some goddamned fun for once, will ya?


  10. Aiddon says:

    Okay, did they just make an out of context reference to Gladiator? Yeah, this script is gonna be PAINFUL to sit through.

    As for the witches thing, I can see the connection. Wiccan is an actual religion and to do this might piss some people off.


  11. Adam Cooperman says:

    It's all a question of context. If a religion was established that worshiped vampires (pretty sure this exists depending on how you define “religion”), can we no longer make movies/games/books about killing evil vampires? I think it's largely a question of which came first, and intent. The Wandering Jew, though an old legend, was created after Judaism, and was both then and now a prejudicial slur against a body of people with a shared belief. Witches were first and foremost evil creatures (as legend anyway). That Wicca chooses to identify itself with that label does not mean we can no longer refer to its original definition.

    Which brings me to intent. Are we upset about Stephen King's It for being about an evil clown? What about all the hardworking people that take up that profession to make their living and entertain people? I think quite clearly the intent of It (whatever it may be) was not to demonize all the people that put on make-up, crazy wigs, and colorful clothes. I don't believe anybody involved in this project has any intent to characterize Wicca as a religion full of disfigured monsters that kill people and are worthy of slaughter.


  12. 岩倉レイン says:

    Having dabbled in the Wiccan religion after discovering it in Drawing Down the Moon, I am alarmed more by two other things.

    (1) All the witches in this movie (trailer) are female. So yes, it's attacking witches, but it's also only attacking females.

    (2) There don't seem to be any empowered women at all. It's mostly little girls who are taken. Gretel is going to be captured. Only Hansel will have a romantic interest, and that romantic interest? She's a waif, with super-white skin, and nothing assertive about her.

    So, not really uncomfortable with them killing witches. Am sort of uncomfortable because America has Salem in its past, among other witch-related atrocities. And very, very frustrated and disappointed that Gretel doesn't get to be kick-ass and save Hansel. And that the whole movie is about killing women. Err, sorry. Killing powerful, sexualized, evil women.


  13. thegoodcapm says:

    As a wiccan, I am not terribly offended by this. I mean, it's not like they're trying to smear witchcraft. The witch as a pop culture symbol has been around for far longer than any actual religion based on it (it goes as far back as some Babylonian texts), so honestly it doesn't bother me. If, say they were attacking Wicca, or the Craft, I probably wouldn't find it amusing. It looks fun and I'll probably see it. Merry Samhain!


  14. Spook says:


    There's a point at which, honestly, I think we have to let the political correctness thing go. I'm not going to boycott Assassin's Creed because the enemy is the Knights Templar. I've actually heard someone claim that demonizing the Templars is essentially demonizing Catholicism (I think the protag has a fistfight with the pope at some point. Bastard of a pope, historically, but someone somewhere along the line made the choice of villain and decided that having an assassin storming the vatican was a good idea).

    This may seem ridiculous because Catholicism is big and powerful and deserves to be fucked with, the papist assholes, just look at the Inquisition (this is sarcasm, by the way), but let's imagine that it's a smaller religion we don't feel so justified in beating up. Would we be worried about this?

    …eh. Not really. Because the Borgias WERE assholes, and the Templars ARE a pop-culture “mysterious cult”. People understand that.

    Likewise, I'm pretty sure Wiccans can recognize that the word “witch” referred to something that (silly superstition, yes, but…) legitimately frightened people in the Middle Ages and continues to be a pop culture horror symbol. What, am I going to start roaming the streets tonight, berating every “spooky witch” for disrespecting the Wiccan tradition by treating it as something to be feared?


  15. Anonymous says:

    @ 岩倉レイン: while i can certainly see why it wouldn't sit right with you (& almost certainly with other people as well), i think the movie gets a pass on the first point, because that's just the mythology that this movie is based on. traditionally, witches are usually female (otherwise they'd be warlocks), & in pop-culture they are female almost by definition. problems with that aspect of the story should be taken up with the source material, rather than the movie that was inspired by it.

    that said, i tend to agree a bit more with your second point. the beginning of the trailer actually had me rather interested in the idea that gretel would be equally badass to her brother, & then disappointed me that he ends up having to rescue her. having a badass (hopefully) non-love-interest female lead character who rescues the male lead would have been nice. that said though, i wouldn't go so far as to say gretel is being 'dis-empowered' because she gets captured, as it does demonstrate her badassery early on.

    but anyway, this is just the first trailer, so it's too early to say what the actual story will be. hell, maybe she rescues herself & he arrives to find her already gone, just in time to get captured himself.

    i might give this one a shot. i'm one of the few who actually did enjoy van helsing in it's stupid monstermash kind of way.


  16. Joe says:

    Well, I guess they could have called it “a epithet Catholic and Protestant fuckwits alike used four to five centuries ago to demonize and lynch their neighbours during a period of intense sectarian strife, often against the wishes of their ecclesiastical authorities”-Hunters, but that doesn't really roll off the tongue.


  17. Blue Highwind says:

    We have to be politically correct for witches now? Screw all that noise. Uch.

    Its a HORROR movie, witches are scary. They fucking cast spells! If putting a witch in a horror movie offends a bunch of hippies or teenage girls going through a wicca phase, then screw it. Let them be offended.

    Are we going to get offended for dead people now the next time they make a zombie movie? My grandpa is dead, you bastards! How dare you imply that he eats brains?!


  18. Rachael says:

    Am I the only person who thinks the religion was around before the mythology? I haven't checked my facts but I know a bit about the area and as far as I know it the pagan religions themselves were around long before they were demonized by Christianity, not that Christianity created the concept of witches and then pagan religions adopted them. In which case this IS just another 'demonizing a religion' thing, although the amount that it happens in pop culture has desensitised me to it so much I can't really bring myself to care anymore. I think most witches are consigned to the fact that 'witch' has two different senses now, a pagan who practices witchcraft and the mythical pop culture entity.


  19. Artrex Denthur says:

    My two cents? The movie won't portray all of them as absolute evil. You're taking Hansel at face value here as the voice of the movie, but he seems to me to be so over-the-top about it that I feel like a “the heroes were wrong!” twist might be coming. That might be me giving the movie too much credit, but seriously, the hunters are kind of vicious, not that the witches aren't moreso.

    Also, seconded that I hope Gretel being captured doesn't end up being tiresome or offensive.


  20. Taylor says:

    The problem with Witch burning was not that we burned witches, it was that we burned innocent people who were not witches. If Witches (people who willingly sold themselves to the devil in exchange for the power to kill others) then I would not worry about offending them.

    As for Wicca, just kindly blow off. The entire religion is a modern creation sloppily bastardizing various anthropological and historical sources with the intent of trolling for attention. I don't care if they get offended by crap since nobody is actually talking about them and they're just going out of their way to find things to be offended by.


  21. Anonymous says:

    Yes, Wicca is an amalgamation of many pagan and polytheistic religions of the past, but we admit that we're borrowing from those religions to form a belief base. But you can say that about religions like Christianity and Judaism. A ton of ancient religions had stories similar to bible stories before the bible existed. Most Wiccans aren't “trolling for attention”. Most of us just want to believe what we believe and be left alone.


  22. Anonymous says:

    Yes, Wicca is an amalgamation of many pagan and polytheistic religions of the past, but we admit that we're borrowing from those religions to form a belief base. But you can say that about religions like Christianity and Judaism. A ton of ancient religions had stories similar to bible stories before the bible existed. Most Wiccans aren't “trolling for attention”. Most of us just want to believe what we believe and be left alone.


  23. Spook says:

    @ Joe: I think the point was more that the Templars, like the papacy, were trappings of the Catholic church being presented as the enemy. The eventual political disfavour was considered more or less immaterial, especially as it took place during one of history's most virulent witch hunts (can I use that phrase in this topic?) and ended up being fairly inconclusive.

    I agree that it's a silly premise, but I can nonetheless see where he was coming from.


  24. Team Charlie says:

    …And there are also people who are called (and even sometimes call themselves) trolls. Do I actually care if they're positioned as giant monsters to be slaughtered in fantasy movies and video games? Nope. Not one bit.

    How about the people who think they're vampires? Do their delusions make me want to watch Blade any less? Hell no.

    So why should the contemporary idea of 'witches' ruin a perfectly ridiculous Jeremy Renner movie? I can't think of a good reason.


  25. Omorka says:

    Polytheistic Neo-Pagan who identifies as a Witch but not necessarily as Wiccan: Yes, it's in poor taste; no, it's not because of Wicca/the Craft/the “Old Religion” (which was never a single tradition to begin with). It's in poor taste because it's misogynistic torture-porn. This isn't using “witch” as a religious identifier; it's using it as a denigration of the archetype of the powerful woman, one who has to die at the Inquisitor's hands. “Normal” monsters prey on grown men; only the witch feeds on children. Ugly, ugly stuff.


  26. Anonymous says:

    I wouldn't worry too much about offending modern Pagans. I've literally never met any two self-proclaimed Wiccan/Pagan/Hellenists who share the same beliefs about anything. I don't think it's necessary to be sensitive about a “religion” that they have all but admitted is completely made up. I suppose in that sense, it's similar to other nonsense like furry/otherkin/dragonkin. They make up their own religion to feel unique.


  27. Allan says:

    So, let me get this straight: this movie obviously uses Witch in the fairytale sense and you get all hypersensetive about real Wiccans feelings towards that portrayal…but when it comes to Christian feelings you always say “Fuck those ignorant neanderthals and everything they believe in.”

    Bob…what is it like to have your head jammed so far in your ass?


  28. Anonymous says:


    yeah only witches. And devils, and ogres, and werewolves, and ghouls, and giants. Which are all male. tbh you could trace most monsters to some demonization of somebody in ancient times. our collective popular culture doesn't have pretty roots obviously, but I think we're all mature enough to distinguish between a hateful stereotype and a simple archetypal monster antagonist.


  29. Fett101 says:

    “I mean, seriously. This is like the Halloween version of outraged atheists demanding Christmas decorations to be taken down. Let people have some goddamned fun for once, will ya?”

    Check your facts. Atheist are not demanding people take down private Christmas decorations but that government property/institutions either be open to all religious displays or have no religious displays. The latter generally preferable since the government and religion are better off not mixed and there are plenty of private spaces that already have Christmas displays.


  30. Sofie Liv Pedersen says:

    Njah, don't worry about it Bob.

    You are living in a era where “Harry potter.” is a collected pop-culture phenomena, in which witches and wizards are presented not as a race of good and evil, but very simply just a bunch of people whom happens to have magic. Working like ordinary people in the sense that there are stupid people, clever people, idealistic people, crazy people and people whom just doesn't know better.
    And the whole image is now so ingrained in all of us that no one would really buy into that “All withces are evil.” kind of stuff at all at this point.

    HAH! and there were people saying Harry potter was good for nothing 😀


  31. Anonymous says:

    You're swaying a little too far left here.

    Annon @6:37 hit the nail on the head. You want to call yourself a witch, that's on you. Sometimes I think people do things in order to find something to be offended about.


  32. Anonymous says:

    Hey Bob, still waiting for an answer: defend the kill list, defend the drone strikes, defend indefinite detention you worthless tool.


  33. Omegalittlebob says:

    While this trailer is in bad taste, its not because of the reasons you're thinking Bob. No, this trailer is in bad taste because it is a terrible trailer that spells out the majority of the plot. Otherwise Bob, I don't think you have anything to be worried about. Two Reasons.

    One we have Harry Potter as the biggest cultural phenomenon since Star Wars, so modern witches and the like should not feel that their place in the world is threatened by this dinky little action movie.

    Two, Jeremy Renner's line at the and about he doesn't believe in good witches followed by some shots of Renner getting cozy with the blonde girl, makes me think that the blonde girl is some kind of good witch, and the ultimate arc of Renner's character will be him learning that not all witches are evil. That's just what I get though, very intrigued by this movie, I hope it has some substance to go along with its style.


  34. Andrew says:

    Bob, I know this is off-topic, but for those who care:

    I plan to see Wreck-it-Ralph either tomorrow or Saturday. When you post your review, could you please specify if it's REALLY worth seeing in 3D? I know it's the thing these days, but most 3D movies I've seen lately just haven't been worth the trouble. Yeah, a couple of scenes, but…bleh, 95% of it's exactly the same.


  35. Anonymous says:

    See, Bob, this is where you cross from really socially liberal, to tumblr liberal.

    This is just stupid. On a level I can't begin to describe.

    And don't start throwing around 'ableist' buzzwords like that's supposed to mean anything. There are bigger social issues than making sure no one's ever offended even possibly.

    Fuck's sake, have any of these social justice activists done shit like No Mas Muertes or something? Put your money where your mouth is if you want to make some social change, you're only being a whiny baby if all you do is online.


  36. Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous 9:07 – Bob is a whiny baby. He just believes himself to be superior to everyone else and that he can accuse anyone of being a bigot.


  37. Anonymous says:

    Where is the civility?

    I completely disagree with Bob on this one but, for the sake of all that is good in civilization, why can't disagreements happen in a courteous and respectful manner. Thank you to those who already stated my feelings on the subject in a polite and constructive manner. Funny thing is, even though Bob elluded to the fact that he was having doubts about his own position (he said “I dunno, maybe I'm nuts…”) some of the lowest among us had to put on their crazy hats and blow it out of proportion: making false equivilancies, using unconstrive language/insults, bringing in off-topic subjects, and the list goes on.

    Say what you will about Bob, but until you can communicate in an effective and construcite manner (James) you will never be as important or influential as you are trying to pretend you are.


  38. Nathan Lickliter says:

    Couple of things about this. Admittedly, one won't be on topic. So, I'll knock that out first. To all the people moaning and complaining about Bob's personal politics, do everyone a favor and keep your opinions to yourselves. Yes, Bob is a real person and has his own ideology that you may not agree with with. To keep pestering him about it is neither cool nor does it make you look like a better person. It makes you look like a prick. Oh and for the record, more often than not, I disagree with what Bob says visa-vie politics, but I don't make it a mission to shout him down.

    Now, back onto topic. Personally, I think most people, even those identifying as a witch or warlock will be ok with this, given the context of the story. Two siblings who lived through being captured and almost eaten by a witch become hunters of that which, in their minds I imagine, hunted them. So far as I can drum up in my head without ever really thinking about it, this movie does seem to be the next logical step in the “Hansel and Gretel” story. What else could they do? Their parents sent them into the woods, and a witch tried to eat them. I don't see much of a “happily ever after” in that scenario. That's just my 2 cents.


  39. thegoodcapm says:

    I'm not sure where all of this rage is coming from regarding people who may get offended by this. Like I said before, most Wiccans and self identified witches will most likely not get offended by it, due to the nature of the film, and the fact that we GET that it's not referring to us. Honestly, most of the comments I've seen here are more offensive than anything I see this movie doing. What I'm seeing here is a lot of close minded people (a couple openminded ones too), who know absolutely nothing about neopaganism. And they're turning that ignorance into assumptions like we're all “hippies and teenage girls” or that we're people who “Do things just to get offended about”. That's not what we are, and I politely ask that you either educate yourself, or take your bigotry elsewhere. We're just like everyone else, we just have different beliefs.


  40. Anonymous says:

    @ Last Anonymous

    Civility doesn't exist on this site because Bob does almost nothing to moderate behavior. It's the 4chan/TV Tropes principle at play: the less moderation a site performs on its members, the more people believe they can get away with and the more extreme the viewpoints get, with each extremist crowding out a moderate. This cycle loops over and over until eventually, you end up with a site full of conspiracy cranks, sexual deviants, out-in-the-open pedophiles, and James Bevan.


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