95 years. That’s how much time must elapse before a published story or film becomes public domain, allowing it to be shared, adapted or corrupted by anyone who chooses to do so. On January 1st, 2022, the beloved childhood character, Winnie The Pooh, celebrated his 95th birthday, opening the door for one of the most grotesque reinterpretations in movie history: Winnie The Pooh: Blood and Honey.
Based on a screenplay by Rhys Frake-Waterfield who also directed, this “reimagining” centres on the characters Winnie The Pooh and Piglet and what transpires after their human friend Christopher Robin (played by Nikolai Leon) leaves for college, forcing them to fend for themselves in 100 Acre Woods. The film’s prologue suggests that the two characters turned into feral animals after being abandoned by Christopher and alludes to a grisly fate that befell Eeyore.
Years later, after getting his fill of college keg parties, Christopher Robin returns to 100 Acre Wood to introduce his fiancée to his old friends. She declares to Robin that the childhood chums he described to her so fondly must simply have been imaginary friends but goes along for the hike, not expecting to find anyone. Eventually they reach a dilapidated cabin in the depths of the woods. That’s when things get very, very dark.
The happy reunion Christopher was hoping for quickly turns into a nightmare when he realizes that his old friends have transformed into bloodthirsty monsters who blame him for the direction their lives have taken after he deserted them. Pooh and Piglet seek revenge on Christopher by relentlessly torturing him for a good part of the film. Their wrath is not limited to Christopher however as their blood soaked lair makes it obvious that his feral friends have ensured that anyone misfortunate enough to enter 100 Acre Woods has met a gory demise.
The remainder of the film centers around a group of young women with a poor choice in vacation homes who are staying at a nearby cabin. Pooh and Piglet’s feral nature have made them fiercely protective of their turf and soon make the unwitting vacationers regret that they they didn’t scroll past 100 Acre Woods on airbnb. In one memorable scene, one of the vacationers catches a glimpse of Pooh in the darkened forest as she soaks in a hot tub but decides to ignore him when she decides he is just one of her friend’s former stalkers. Needless to say it does not end well. Word to the wise, if you ever see a creepy half-human bear or pig when you’re alone in the dark woods, it’s probably time to go inside and lock the door.
Most of the film’s characters are one dimensional horror film archetypes which makes the peril they encounter feel almost inconsequential. Of course, the true stars of the film are Pooh and Piglet. While there are some facial similarities to the original characters, they are decidedly more grotesque with human bodies. For the first half of the film I was trying to figure out if they were actually supposed to be humans who just enjoy dressing up like animals or if they were some sort of hybrid manimal, roaming the forest looking for prey. It appears the latter is true but I do think that the story would have been more interesting had it turned out that Christopher Robin had been hanging out with human serial killers with a penchant for animal cosplay all those years and was just too naive to realize it.
The appearance of Pooh and Piglet is probably the most unsettling and entertaining aspects of the film. They commit one unspeakable act after another while their unchanging expressions and cold, dead eyes contrast the innocence associated with their characters from the original stories. Pooh himself spends much of the film literally covered in both blood and honey as he seems to have an insatiable appetite for both while Piglet’s twisted fangs are a fitting look for a character who has transformed from an innocent baby big into a savage wild boar.
While the characters and story of Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey are nothing special, the cinematography was a step above what one would expect from this type of film. The eerie visuals of the foreboding wilderness surrounding Christopher and his fiancée as they hiked through Hundred Acre Wood was surprisingly effective and had me wondering if the film might have more potential than its premise would suggest. Unfortunately my optimism was short-lived as it quickly devolved into a standard slasher film in almost every way.
Since the main intent of this film was likely to shock anyone familiar with the Winnie The Pooh stories, I can’t really complain too much about its deficiencies. I mean what do you expect when you see a film that turns beloved childhood characters into some of the most savage killers ever depicted on film. Watching Pooh and Piglet commit such vile acts was initially entertaining for its sheer audacity but once the shock wore off there wasn’t much left but some unintentional laughs. Had the story been more of a dark comedy-horror poking fun at the exploitation of these beloved characters rather than flat out torture porn, I feel like this film would have worked much better.
With more classic stories closing in on public domain status soon, we can expect other unconventional interpretations to hit the theatres in coming years. Despite receiving death threats for making this film, director Rhys Frake-Waterfield has already indicated he is interested in recreating Peter Pan and Bambi as horror films. Since I enjoy bad horror films almost as much as the good ones, I’ll probably watch those films too although I think I’ll wait until they are streaming next time. I suggest you do the same with this one.
Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey is currently playing in theatres in limited release and likely coming very soon to a streaming service near you