Winnie-the-Pooh: Blood and Honey

Oh bother: this slasher version of 'Winnie-the-Pooh' doesn't offer much that sticks beyond its attention-grabbing premise.
Sarah Ward
Published on February 15, 2023


Never meet your heroes. Kill your darlings. A murderous rampage through the Hundred Acre Wood — a slasher take on a childhood favourite, too — Winnie-the-Pooh: Blood and Honey sticks its paws in both pots. Based on AA Milne's famed creation, which initially appeared in kids' poetry book When We Were Very Young in 1924, this schlockfest is exactly what a headline-courting low-budget horror flick about a homicidal Pooh and Piglet seemed sight unseen, and in its trailer. Blood and Honey is all about that high-concept idea, and splashing around as many instances of bloody bother as possible, to the point of repetition. It slathers on well-executed gore, but isn't anything approaching good or so-bad-it's-good. That said, it's also a reminder that everything changes, even a cute, cuddly stuffed animal revered by generations — and that carving away cosy notions about comforting things is a fact of life.

Commenting on ditching one's safety blankets and inevitably being disappointed by one's idols is an unexpected — and perhaps unintended — bonus here. With so little plot and character development to writer/director/producer Rhys Frake-Waterfield's (The Killing Tree) script, making a statement is hardly Blood and Honey's main meal. This is a film of opportunity. Milne's loveable bear of very little brain entered the public domain at the beginning of 2022, which is what gave rise to this gruesome spin on figures seen on the page, in plenty of cartoons, and also examined in recent movies such as Goodbye Christopher Robin and Christopher Robin. As sure as the titular teddy's historical love for ditching pants and palling around with Piglet, Tigger, Eeyore, Owl, Kanga and Roo, this Texas Chainsaw Massacre-style Pooh twist primarily exists because the premise was too irresistible thanks to copyright laws.  

Now gone all lumberjack, Pooh does don dacks in Blood and Honey. He's also fond of sadistically ripping people apart with a range of weapons, particularly inflicting head traumas. Why? To satisfy bloodlust that's sprung from feeling abandoned by Christopher Robin (Nikolai Leon, also Frake-Waterfield's The Killing Tree) when he went off to college, then having to carnivorously rely on a friend to survive. Unsurprisingly, much of the picture is filled with stalking and killing, as the bear and his porcine companion dispense with anyone who dares go down to the woods on any day. Just as much focuses on lingering shots of Pooh and Piglet in all their human-sized, fully clothed glory — their faces rubbery, twisted, grinning and grotesque, and never resembling anything but two guys (Craig David Dowsett and Chris Cordell, both alumni of Frake-Waterfield's The Area 51 Incident) in masks. Often, they lurk in the background like they're Michael Myers, waiting to strike cinema's go-to throwaway victims: out-of-towners on a rural vacation, and women at that.

Blood and Honey uses illustration-style animation to set the scene before getting cold-blooded, and to establish not only Christopher leaving the Hundred Acre Wood crew, but also the latter's decision never to speak again after the hunger, resentment and tough decisions that follow. Dubbed "abominations" by the opening narration anyway, they maintain their mute promise even when their former friend returns brimming with excitement to show his boyhood haunt and its residents to his disbelieving spouse Mary (Paula Coiz, Tooth Fairy Queen of Pain) — and when that reunion turns feral, when they spark the torture-porn onslaught. Blood and Honey isn't the product of many savvy decisions past its central idea, and can't even decide whether Mary is Christopher's fiancée or wife in its early dialogue; however, removing the possibility of ill-fitting voices for Pooh and company slicing the mood to pieces is at least one smart move.

What's a man-shaped bear and pig to do when Maria (Maria Taylor, Mega Lightning), Jess (Natasha Rose Mills, Return of Krampus), Alice (Amber Doig-Thorne, Summoning Bloody Mary 2), Zoe (Danielle Ronald, Shockwaves), Lara (Natasha Tosini, Quarantine Leap) and Tina (May Kelly, also Mega Lightning) mosey their way not long after Christopher's comeback? Get kill-happy, complete with slaughtering a few other folks who stumble along in Frake-Waterfield's straight-faced, by-the-numbers affair — and prolific producer Scott Jeffrey's latest cheap horror effort, including almost every film mentioned above in the Blood and Honey's cast's previous credits. How are any of the movie's humans supposed to stand out, or make an imprint beyond being grist for the grindhouse mill? They can't, although Maria is introduced as the victim of a prior attack, a background detail that's barely explored and then utterly ignored. Otherwise, two of her friends are a couple, and one likes taking bikini-clad selfies — which is all that the feature shares about them.

How's a director meant to find tension in the monotonous array of deaths, and with dispatching with such one-dimensional, forgettable prey? Frake-Waterfield can't, especially given there's zero doubt from the outset that Pooh and Piglet are deranged and demonic, the body count and accompanying splatter will be high, and a sequel will be on the way based on the viral response to the feature's existence alone. Blood and Honey's creative forces are indeed planning a second jaunt for violent Pooh and his pals, as revealed before the first movie hit cinemas. More than that, they have their sights set on other children's favourites now in the public domain, such as Bambi and Peter Pan, all in their own Marvel Cinematic Universe-esque interconnected realm. Like the MCU, DC Comics Extended Universe and the like, they're also clearly fine with filler in their franchise.

Perhaps future serial-killer Pooh flicks will find more to bother with. To keep audiences coming back now the 'beloved character gets unhinged' bit has been so dully done, they'll need to. More nods to Milne's pages would be a start, because Blood and Honey plays like a generic slasher with familiar names and a heap of honey thrown in (using Eeyore's detachable tail to get whipping is a rare and welcome touch). Perhaps whatever returns to the Hundred Acre Wood from here will give viewers a reason to care about someone — anyone — and their fates. Maybe there'll be dialogue that actual people would genuinely say, or a much-needed sense of OTT humour. Ideally, there'd be some weight behind the slaying of childhood innocence. If 2023's other big bear-focused release is a hit, though, maybe the best that can be hoped for is Winnie-the-Pooh meets Cocaine Bear — a notion that doesn't sound bad on paper, but neither did Blood and Honey before the movie started rolling.


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