Videodrone B-Sides: 'Hansel & Gretel' – Horror franchise?
Our monthly round-up of direct-to-disc and made-for-cable pictures that slip on to the New Release racks
The tradition of cashing in on big budget studio films with cheap knock-offs, parodies, and too-similar-to-be-coincidence sound-alike films dates back to the silent era. The home video market has merely opened up new avenues of distribution and profit. So, as "Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters" hits theaters, a couple of similar titles arrive on New Release racks.
In "Hansel & Gretel: Warriors of Witchcraft" (Lionsgate), directed by David DeCoteau, they are American teenagers (played by show-biz siblings Booboo Stewart, of the "Twilight" films, and Fivel Stewart) who discover their family legacy of witchcraft while at an elite boarding school run by headmaster Eric Roberts. Vanessa Angel is the teacher who helps them discover their powers and the oddball stuntcasting includes former teen rock star Cherie Currie and former "Waltons" daughter Judy Norton. DVD, with commentary by director DeCoteau and members of the cast.
The more simply titled "Hansel & Gretel" (The Asylum) is more of a traditional torture porn production with teenage Hansel and Gretel getting lost in the woods and taken in by Dee Wallace (the sole name in the cast), a baker by profession and a psychopathic killer who cuts up her victims for meat pieces. Blu-ray and DVD, with commentary, featurettes, and a gag reel.
"Death Race 3: Inferno" (Universal) is the second direct-to-disc sequel in the prison / race-to-the-death franchise, this one setting the no-holds-barred demolition derby in the Kalahari desert, where guided missiles become part of the course booby traps. FEARnet film critic Scott Weinberg gives it a guarded recommendation: "if you like this sort of junk, here's a fun piece of that sort of junk." Luke Goss, Tanit Phoenix, Danny Trejo, and Ving Rhames are all back, and Dougray Scott co-stars. Blu-ray and DVD with R and unrated editions of the film, plus commentary, a featurette, and deleted scenes. The Blu-ray also includes and alternate opening, more featurettes, a bonus DVD, and a digital copy of the film for portable media players and UltraViolet digital copy for download and instant streaming. Also On Demand. Reviews here.
"Guns, Girls and Gambling" (Universal), which received a token theatrical release, is a Tarantino-esque heist film at an Indian casino featuring Christian Slater in an Elvis outfit running into a gang of thieves with the same outfits. "A strangely anachronistic crime and double-crosses picture — is there something more current to rip off than '90s Tarantino? — the film is needlessly flat, never much achieving the kick and surprise it aspires to, writes Los Angeles Times film critic Mark Olsen. Dane Cook, Helena Mattsson, Powers Booth, and Gary Oldman co-star. Blu-ray and DVD.
"Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning" (Sony), the latest in the revived franchise, reteams "Universal Soldier: Regeneration" director John Hyams (son of Peter) with original soldiers John-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren and recent recruit Scott Adkins. Eric Kohn, writing for Indiewire, gives it high marks for creativity: "The story is thin and in retrospect fairly silly; performances are robotic all around. Yet it retains a refreshing edge that overcomes these barriers." Blu-ray and DVD, with commentary and three featurettes. More reviews here.