Winnie the Pooh Blood and Honey review: No pot of honey
For characters in classic literature, there is nothing more frightening than the spectre of the Public Domain. After 95 years, admittedly a not unenviable lifetime, works of fiction are no longer protected by copyright, meaning it’s open season for whoever wants to publish, adapt, borrow from or utterly pervert a piece of fiction, no matter how unhinged the individual or their ideas.
Usually it heralds a wave of adaptations, such as the ceaseless conveyor belt of A Christmas Carols and Draculas and Alices in Wonderland. But sometimes things go further.
The 2016 film Pride and Prejudice and Zombies introduced a bloody, post-apocalyptic twist to Jane Austin’s novel of manners. Now it’s the turn of beloved bear Winnie-the-Pooh, who is reimagined in this low-budget slasher as a crazed sadist who, alongside his trusty sidekick Piglet, embarks upon a gruesome killing spree. Safe to say this isn’t one for kids.
There’s a certain anarchic charm in the idea of subverting a nostalgic work of fiction, of placing familiar characters into a surprising new context, and things start promisingly enough in Blood and Honey. An animated sequence shows the aftermath of Christopher Robin leaving the Hundred Acre Wood to go to university, abandoning Pooh and Piglet and Eeyore and the rest of the gang to fend for themselves.
Pooh, the silly old bear, can’t cope and after a freezing winter they are forced to eat Eeyore, imbuing them with a ferocious hatred for humans, especially Christopher Robin. All of which is bad news for a group of young women who decide to holiday at Hundred Acre Wood.
What follows is a slasher movie in thrall to the greats but devoid of any fresh ideas, the only ‘original’ element being the now-gigantic Pooh and Piglet, played by a couple of big lads in rubber masks and lumberjack shirts.
There’s no riffing on what these characters might represent, nor any clever call-backs to the AA Milne books – there are a few shots of Pooh dripping honey from his quivering, lipless mouth but that’s the extent of the character study.
Director Rhys Frake-Waterfield can’t seem to make up his mind about whether he’s shooting an out-and-out B-movie comedy horror in the vein of Troma Entertainment, or a surreal update of Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the film’s clearest visual reference. Whichever it is, he fails.
The acting is uniformly bad, and not in a so-bad-it’s good way, more a bottom-of-the-class drama-undergrad way. It’s also bafflingly unimaginative, rehashing the same handful of horror movie shots – the killer appearing in negative space, tight shots of the victims that obviously hide the giant yellow bear just out of frame.
There’s also a lot of queasy, unreformed sexploitation that serves no purpose other than to shock. When Pooh grapples one girl, her shirt immediately tears off. Moments later another girl sexy-dances alone in her room wearing just a bikini. And it’s one thing to see your favourite childhood character feeding a live victim into a wood chipper, but it’s somehow far worse watching him repeatedly slap a bound woman across the face.
But Blood and Honey isn’t bad because it’s shocking, it’s bad because it’s lazy – it’s a poorly conceived, poorly shot, poorly acted hotch-potch of ideas and styles that’s a disservice to all involved, not least Pooh.
Winnie the Pooh Blood and Honey is in cinemas now
Read more film reviews at City A.M. Life&Style