February 22, 2023

Cult Hit “Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey” Ruins Childhoods with Murderous Glee (Review)

“Oh, bother.”

Unfortunately, Winnie the Pooh does not speak in this horror-themed reimagining of the classic Disney character, but if he did, I imagine he’d say his iconic catchphrase more than once — because this is a film which certainly deserves it.

Masterminded by English director Rhys Frake-Waterfield, Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey was announced in May 2022 and instantly gained notoriety and garnered significant controversy, but also stamped a permanent place in the minds of hardcore movie-goers such as myself. I wouldn’t say I was particularly excited, but I was intrigued, and sometimes, that’s enough.

In the world of Blood and Honey, Pooh Bear is no longer the cuddly teddy of Christopher Robin’s childhood — after the boy left Pooh and his pals in the Hundred-Acre Wood to go off to college, the friendly animals were left to their own devices and, naturally, descended into cannibalistic insanity. Now, Pooh (played in Blood and Honey by Craig David Dowsett) and Piglet (Chris Cordell) have become silent slasher killers — akin to Jason Voorhees or Michael Myers — a transformation I desperately do not wish for most iconic characters of my youth. While I didn’t necessarily grow up with Winnie-the-Pooh (that’s true, I had no childhood), his cultural impact is impossible to deny, and it’s infinitely jarring to see him depicted as a masked murderer.

Blood and Honey picks up years later, as Christopher Robin (Nikolai Leon) returns to the Hundred-Acre Wood with his fiancée Mary (Paula Coiz) only to find a nasty surprise waiting for him. Our main characters are a group of university students who, due to the movie’s undeniably sexist attitude towards its female characters, have no distinct personality traits and virtually no interesting qualities aside from the method in which they end up dying. This is (unfortunately) nothing new when it comes to slashers, but it’s clear that this film’s top priority is gore over character.

I’ve been beating around the bush for a while, but it’s now safe to confidently say that Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey is atrocious in nearly every way. Every character interaction is painfully written and flatly delivered, the filmmaking is constantly bordering on exploitative, and the production reflects its budget in the worst possible way.

That being said — this movie works because of its premise. You’re not expecting a masterpiece, nor should you. It delivers exactly what it promises, and on the condition that you embrace the ridiculousness and adjust your expectations, you get exactly what is advertised.

I love that this movie gained fame over a year before its release, because that’s exactly what it deserves: cult status before the world’s even seen it. I’m always in support of independent filmmaking, even if it’s trashy B-horror like Blood and Honey — but who can argue with that? Not many Indies get a chance to break into the mainstream like this, so I’d say give it a chance. It’s great on premise alone, but that’s about its only strength: after the animated opening montage, it becomes a pretty typical slasher without much originality aside from the fact that it’s silent, hulking, masked versions of iconic childhood figures doing the slaughtering. It’s violently gory, incredibly cringe-worthy, and extremely British. Not great by any means, but I had a ton of fun.

I have a bad feeling that this is only the beginning of a series of revisionist adaptations, as more and more iconic literature and stories begin to enter the public domain. Frake-Waterfield has since announced a sequel to Blood and Honey (with an even bigger budget to work with this time around), as well as in-development adaptations of the Bambi and Peter Pan characters. Whether these will be as notable as Blood and Honey or if the novelty will have worn off by then remains to be seen, but for now, consider my intrigue sustained.

Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey is in theaters now.

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