Imagine if your childhood friendships went sour. Then imagine that your name is Christopher Robin, your childhood friends were animal/human hybrids – a talking bear, a pig and a donkey – and that these friendships turned not just sour, but bloody. That’s the premise of Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey, a slasher flick with a thirst for grindhouse gore and the screams of semi-clad women, but with none of the self-awareness or uneasy comedy that often make such B Movies a guilty pleasure.
British writer-director Rhys Frake-Waterfield swiftly took advantage of the US copyright to AA Milne’s beloved children’s series expiring at the start of 2022. It was actually only originally intended to be streamed alongside a single day theatrical release, but a bigger release was rolled out after the trailer went viral. It still has the feel of a gimmick that might have worked well for a YouTube short taken several steps too far.
We open with Christopher Robin (Nikolai Leon) returning to Hundred Acre Wood with his fiancé – searching for his old buddies – before discovering that they’ve turned feral. The look is microbudget – a firepit and treehouse straight out of Blue Peter – but that’s not necessarily a problem. Grindhouse slashers often thrive on basic aesthetics of their genre, and Pooh and Piglet’s rubber masks, smiles plastered on whether they’re eating honey or running corpses through woodchippers, could have been part of the fun. And yet.
No one expects a multi-layered, nuanced plot with such films, but this script is so abominably lazy, with so little motivation and so many inconsistencies, it’s hard to ignore. “They renounced their humanity… swearing never to talk again,” a voiceover booms early on, but then suddenly a captive (yes, Pooh keeps captives. Why? Who knows) announces that they speak broken English. There is a group of women on a restorative weekend away at a cabin in the woods with half-baked backstories we hear of once and then never again. There are briefly some unexplained evil bees.
Although you might expect in a film like this some pretty girls with their heads bashed in, the misogyny is unchecked, unfunny, and rife. An influencer taking selfies of herself in the jacuzzi is practically asking for it, isn’t she? The top of one of her friends is ripped off, exposing her breasts, mere moments before her grisly demise. Pooh and Piglet aren’t humanoids regressing to their animalistic nature – they’re sexist lumberjacks high on bloodlust and an enthusiasm for torture porn.
Where are the riffs on friendship, the playful satirising of the familiar literary cannon of our childhoods? Where on earth is Tigger? What a waste. Oh, bother.