‘Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey’ Takes the Stuffing Out of Pooh Bear With Absurd Campiness
Every now and then there’s a work of exploitative trashiness too bad to miss. The hype surrounding “Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey” swirls around the idea of turning a beloved childhood character into a mad slasher, and how this is possible because Winnie the Pooh’s copyright has expired. The honey-guzzling bear is now in the public domain and English director Rhys Frake-Waterfield has instantly jumped on what that entails. What he has made is almost hard to categorize. It’s a purposefully low-budget piece of gory absurdity, with a few flashes of genuine style. You almost can’t judge it as a regular horror entry but as something destined to be a midnight tradition for film students walking in with plenty of alcohol.
Readers of A.A. Milne’s 1926 “Winnie-the-Pooh” novel or those who grew up watching Disney’s “The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh” will be wondering how it all came to this. As an animated prologue informs us, soon after Christopher Robin left the Hundred Acre Wood, his plushy animal friends were left behind, abandoned to the elements. A “Lord of the Flies” scenario apparently formed where depressive donkey Eyore was eaten and the animals vowed to never speak again out of a hatred for humans. Years later, a grown Christopher (Nikolai Leon) returns with his wife to the Wood, which is now draped in drained colors and cold shadows. In no time poor Christopher gets a violent reception when his spouse is murdered by a raging Piglet (Chris Cordell) and ominous, revenge-hungry Pooh Bear (Craig David Dowsett). They take their former human friend prisoner. Soon enough, a group of young women bent on a woodsy getaway, unknowingly intruding in Pooh Bear and Piglet’s domain, which seals their fates.
There is a certain chutzpah to Waterfield making this movie out of the sheer glee of being able to deform such an iconic set of characters. It’s like taking Barney the Dinosaur and turning him into a global terrorist. As satire it would be hilarious, but Waterfield and his team are determined to present a genuine, bad slasher thriller. Over-the-top does not begin to describe cinematographer Vince Knight’s moody tracking shots into rows of trees or the way Andrew Scott Bell’s music score evokes medieval choruses as Pooh smashes in skulls, his obviously plastic visage dripping honey. The best parts of the movie are the opening scenes because there is a genuine, devilish humor in seeing a concept we’ve all known as so sweet and innocent turned into morbidity. Christopher Robin returns to find the Hundred Acre wood looking like a post-nuclear war village, with the name of the place scribbled on cardboard and empty jars of honey littered about. You can’t help but chuckle when Piglet strikes and Christopher shouts with genuine angst, “Piglet! No!”
In the tradition of midnight trashiness, the movie recycles old serial killer movie clichés with no shame. The group of vacationing friends is led by Maria (Maria Taylor), who is recovering from the trauma of a stalker (an older unknown man who creeped into her bedroom). Her friends are borrowed from other slice and dice flicks, including nerdy Jess (Natasha Rose Mills) and tattooed, sultry influencer Alice (Amber Doig-Thorne). The moment we see Alice in a bikini taking selfies in a hot tub, we know she’s doomed and indeed, here comes Pooh with Piglet out of a dark corner. Each murder is a chance for the makeup department to show off their skills. As far as the gore goes, when someone’s head gets run over by a car wheel or their bodies go into a wood chipper, the effects are not too shabby. They certainly work better than the Pooh and Piglet outfits, which look like rubbery Halloween costumes. We must wonder why Pooh has arms instead of paws or how he and Piglet got so tall. And since when did they get a liking for pants? Another hilariously entertaining touch has Pooh Bear apparently able to signal a swarm of bees at his victims.
By the third act “Blood and Honey” starts losing any gas it had left with the endless stream of killings, never pausing to truly play around with the surreal heart of what Frake-Waterfield is attempting. Some shots would have been appreciated by the surrealists, who liked the idea of subverting cherished iconography. Yet like many tired murder romps, the initial surprises fade out and we’re just left with gore for its own sake. Too bad the filmmakers couldn’t invest in a song number or two. There are too many shots of Pooh Bear, with his artificial beer gut, slowly walking toward the camera or a squealing Piglet wielding his hammer. Maybe in the already-planned sequel Tigger will appear to maul someone. Still, there’s enough spirit in this odd exercise to guarantee it a place with infamous cousins like “Chaos” and “The Room,” which this one at least surpasses in visual structure. It may generate a fan base solely for existing, inspiring chortles and drunken cheers.
“Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey” releases Feb. 15 in select theaters.