Starring Shannen Doherty, Paul McGillion, Emilie Ullerup, Sarain Boylan, Jefferson Brown
Directed by Mario Azzopardi
Ex-“Charmed” star Shannen Doherty gets witchy once more in the Syfy original Witchslayer Gretl. Doherty stars as Gretl, although Gretl is not actually a witchslayer despite what the film’s title would indicate. Gretl is actually the demonically possessed sister of her brother, Hansel. He’s the actual witch slayer; she’s just under the control of a witch. Why they didn’t title it Witchslayer Hansel is anyone’s guess. Mine would be because Shannen Doherty is a bigger star than “Stargate: Atlantis” alumnus Paul McGillion.
If you’re tuning in because you’re a big Shannen Doherty fan, you’re probably going to be disappointed by how little she’s actually in it prior to the third act.
A young woman whose only family is killed by the evil witch’s sideburn-sporting henchminion known only as “Abyss” gets recruited by the reformed witch serving as a sidekick to witchslayer Hansel. She very quickly shows this girl how to use her previously untapped witch powers so that they can both help Hansel. Like the way they all wear amulet neck collars that magically function as bluetooths. Hansel has a policy that he won’t slay them like he does every other witch so long as they don’t fully embrace their witch powers and/or cross over to the dark side of the witch force. A bit of a hypocrite that Hansel is, if you ask me.
The evil witch possessing Gretl’s body (in her true form with a half-melted face, she bore a weird resemblance to the deadite woman that attacks Ash in the S-Mart at the end of Army of Darkness) is kidnapping fair maidens gifted with the power of witchcraft, either corrupting them into her coven or killing them by draining their witch power. All part of her master plan to gain ultimate power in order to conquer the entire forest, I presume, since there sure didn’t seem to be much by way of civilization around for her to rule over.
Other than a few shacks and a cave setting drenched in fake moss, actors dressed like Renaissance Fair extras spend the bulk of the movie skulking about what looks to be the same exact forest actors skulk about in just about every single Syfy-produced fantasy flick. It’s apparent very little money was spent on set design. Very little money appeared to have been spent on anything, really. This film is extremely cheap looking even by Syfy standards.
So, anyway… Witches bad. Witch hunters good. Ex-witches and non-evil girls with witch powers are good as long as they don’t allow themselves to be turned by the evil witch. Gretl is good but is doing bad because she is possessed by badness that must be defeated by good in order to make her good again. Crossbows are fired. Staffs are swung. Witches are stabbed. Balls of light are shot from hands. Dead witches disintegrate into digital dust. Evil witch unleashes Spyro the Dragon’s feral cousin to help fight her battle. I fight to stay awake.
Syfy movies in general are rarely ever good, but at least some of them manage to be enjoyably schlocky or unintentionally hilarious. And then there are the ones like Witchslayer Gretl that are the equivalent of cinematic Ambien. Even when there was action and magic and monsters on the screen, so little of it held my interest my senses dulled and my thoughts drifted elsewhere. Fairy tales are traditionally read to little kids before bedtime. This fairy tale even made this adult feel ready for night-night.
I don’t know if the actors were merely wooden or if they thought that because they were appearing in a fantasy flick they needed to speak in some stilted form in order to sound less modern; they found a way to make the already stilted dialogue sound even stiffer. Hansel’s ex-witch sidekick played by Sarain Boylan is the only performer able to infuse her role with some personality because she appeared to be the only one not taking the material too seriously.
Really now… And this goes for the writer, director, and producers as well. Someone needed to sit everyone down and force them to watch Deathstalker II. The acting might be terrible but the cast looked to be enjoying themselves somewhat. Shannen Doherty here sounded about as enthusiastic as an actual witch about to be burned at the stake.
I will say this for Witchslayer Gretl: It may have set a record for the number of times in a single film characters end up strung up like Fay Wray in King Kong. I lost count of the number of times someone ended up with their arms stretched out shackled between two pillars or posts. That’s got to count for something, right?
So, yeah, everyone got paid and Syfy got two more hours of original programming to put into regular rotation. Good for them. Bad for viewers.
1 out of 5