By Joel Harley
If you go down to the woods today, you’re sure of a big surprise… murderous versions of Winnie-the-Pooh and his anthropomorphic chums, having spurned humanity when their beloved Christopher Robin (Nikolai Leon) abandoned them for college.
This low-budget British slasher film transforms A. A. Milne’s 100 Acre Wood into a cross between the forest of a Wrong Turn and the island of Doctor Moreau. Under director Rhys Frake-Waterfield, Pooh Bear becomes a hybrid of Leatherface and Phil Mitchell, stomping about the woods in dungarees and a lumberjack shirt. Piglet, a screeching monster with dirty great antlers and a thing for chains. The other furry friends, presumably, are being saved for the sequel – just don’t ask what happened to Eeyore.
Following a promising opening (which includes some delightfully scratchy animation), the film gets on with setting up the splatter. On the outskirts of 100 Acre Wood, a group of young women move into the local Airbnb, hoping to help pal Maria (Maria Taylor) move past her stalker trauma. As it happens, they succeed – after a creepy flashback sequence, it’s barely acknowledged again. There’s a refreshing lack of meandering as the animals get down to business, serving up all of the creative violence (including unfortunate CGI blood) that audiences might have hoped for from a Winnie-the-Pooh horror film.
We knew about the bear’s love of hunny and the big yellow belly, but A. A. Milne and Pooh’s handlers at Disney hadn’t warned us about his proficiency at throwing hands – culminating in a sequence in which Winnie-the-Pooh karate chops a guy’s arm off. While Pooh never feels more than a man in a rubber mask, he’s an effective monster – spitting swarms of bees like Candyman (!), drooling a rictus smile as he stalks the 100 Acre Wood.
Even less expected is the film’s grossly misogynistic bent – a theme which starts with a girl’s clothes just falling off as she fights Winnie-the-Pooh – accelerates with the grotesque stalker flashback – then truly commits to the bit with a bikini hogtie (or Piglet-tie, as it were). Pooh and Piglet may have turned their back on mankind, but it’s women they really hate.
The rest of its issues can be forgiven, attributed to the pitfalls of independent filmmaking. From the murky cinematography to the stuffy performances and could-have-used-a-polish script, it’s fairly typical low-budget horror, given an edge with its fast pace, short runtime, and attention-grabbing monsters.
This pooh stinks, sure, but it’s not without its charm, finding frustrating moments of wit and levity amidst the punishing cynicism. After all, it’s hard to entirely dismiss a film where a guy calls Winnie-the-Pooh a nonce. Blood and Honey is intermittently entertaining when not indulging in its worst impulses – a lurid, nihilistic perversion of a beloved childhood character. Oh, bother.
Winnie-the-Pooh: Blood and Honey is in cinemas now.