Winnie The Pooh: Blood and Honey: Movie Review
Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey does nothing with its great concept, resulting in a brutal but painfully shallow slasher that only select viewers will enjoy.
Before anything else, I need to address something about the public’s reaction to Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey well before it even came out. For some reason, so many people seem to detest the very idea of a Winnie the Pooh horror movie. I say this as someone who was huge on Winnie the Pooh in my childhood and still holds a place for it in my heart: this is a fantastic idea, and writing it off so instantly is very close-minded to me. The concept of childhood friends turning on you for leaving them behind, applied to icons that are so precious to so many of our own childhoods, is rich with possibilities that could make it a truly upsetting horror film.
Even if you ignore previous Winnie the Pooh material at see this as its own film, the concept still has a ton of potential. Or maybe Blood and Honey could be an intentional black comedy that darkly riffs on familiar material. What would be wrong with any of this? It’s unfair and uninspiring to say what can and can’t be done with a certain IP (outside of certain practices like whitewashing). If Batman can be equally accepted as campy 60s television and gritty, dramatic cinema, why should other franchises be put in boxes? Adaptations and remakes don’t need to have the same spirit as their source materials to be good. Let’s go nuts and find new, unexpected ways of transforming stories we all know like the backs of our hands!
… With that said, Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey is unfortunately not good.
Like most iterations of this franchise, the story begins with a boy, Christopher Robin (Nikolai Leon), visiting his colorful animal friends in the Hundred Acre Wood, including Winnie the Pooh (Craig David Dowsett) and Piglet (Chris Cordell). But when he leaves for college, the animals are forced to fend for themselves in the harsh wilderness. This turns them cruel, mute, and hateful of all humans, and when Christopher returns years later, they take their revenge and hold him prisoner. Oh, but don’t think that Christopher Robin himself is one of the main characters. Instead, we mostly follow a group of university students who rent a cabin in the Hundred Acre Wood after one of them, Maria (Maria Taylor), has a traumatic experience with a stalker. This group is slowly picked off by Pooh and Piglet as they try to find a way to stop the savages, eventually coming across the person who should have been the lead, Christopher Robin.
That really is one of the biggest, most confusing problems with Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey. The first ten minutes of the movie are what at least the entire first act should have been: Christopher returning to a place he grew up with and being horrified to see what’s happened to his old friends. Instead, by the time the opening credits roll, we know the entire backstory of Pooh and Piglet and we’ve seen Christopher learn everything he can about what they’re like now. Not only does that rush through so much of the story’s meat, but it removes a lot of the suspense later because we immediately know exactly what’s going on.
I’m not complaining because I have a bias towards Christopher Robin from previous versions. I’m complaining because within the framework of this movie alone, he’s the only human character with any connection to the monsters. The actual main characters have nothing to do with the most interesting aspects of this story. Maria has a littlebit to her thanks to her backstory, but it’s very lightly touched upon and could be cut out without missing anything. All of her friends are there to be killed and nothing more, which is a very common complaint towards most subpar slashers … and yes, that’s what Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey is: a subpar slasher.
With that said, Blood and Honey is at least a pretty decent-looking subpar slasher, especially for its budget. Some scenes are too underlit, but other times the harsh shadows and blocking of monsters approaching their victims work wonders with the eerie backdrop of the woods at night. I even liked the costumes for Pooh and Piglet. In this environment with the context of them being childhood creations turned evil, their designs’ mix of silly and menacing works really well.
But let’s say you grew up with Winnie the Pooh and believe you can get some entertainment out of the idea of these cherished characters ruthlessly slaughtering people. I won’t lie, that was a big draw for me personally. If that’s enough for you, you’ll get it. The kills are brutal, grotesque, and frequent, and the buildup to each one is usually decent. The faster-paced sequences don’t work as well because of how incomprehensibly framed a lot of the shots are, except for a “car chase” of sorts near the end that was handled fine. I also appreciate the lack of boomingly loud jump-scares that plague other horror films, even good ones.
And I won’t lie, when I juxtapose the innocent, happy nature of the Winnie the Pooh I grew up with to this, it does manage to get me genuinely ill at ease. Most of that is purely my own deeply-rooted history that has nothing to do with the film’s actual merits. But the child in me just can’t help but be honest-to-God pained when I see Winnie the Pooh suffering, becoming such a savage, and ragefully lamenting over Christopher Robin abandoning him. I know it’s shallow, but it worked on me. And to the film’s credit, its bleak, hopeless atmosphere is piled on relentlessly, and the pained acting from Nikolai Leon is legitimately really good.
But then at the same time, I also have a morbidly dark sense of humor. So when I see something like Winnie the Pooh whipping Christopher Robin with Eeyore’s tail … the kid in me is appalled, while the adult in me is laughing his ass off. Because of that constant back-and-forth, and because it’s often very hard to tell whether the film is trying to be scary, funny, or something in between, my fascination with my own reactions to Blood and Honey allowed me to enjoy it all the way through.
But I need to be perfectly clear: “objectively,” almost none of this makes Blood and Honey actually good. Whatever response the moviegenerates from you, in the end, it’s in service of absolutely nothing but meaningless thrills. What little substance Blood and Honey has is sidelined at best, and none of the gruesome, frankly gratuitous violence can distract you from that. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of such excessive violence and torture porn, which should probably warrant a deeper examination of myself. But I don’t equate it with actual quality, especially when I can’t tell whether the film knows how empty it is. Blood and Honey also just abruptly stops instead of having anything resembling a “proper” ending.
I know this is going to be the popular thing to say, but Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey really feels like someone made a generic slasher and then slapped Winnie the Pooh elements onto it for the sake of publicity. And while I’m on the record in saying that I’m down for gaming the system like that in an environment oversaturated with big IPs, I’m still bothered by how unadventurous the movie is. The biggest example of this? Pooh and Piglet are the only monsters in the movie. Even though it’s established in this movie that Christopher Robin had other friends, we never see them. That is such a huge missed opportunity! I sympathize if it was a budget problem, but it’s still a glaring waste of potential. Imagine sweet little Roo hopping on someone’s face and skewering someone’s face off, and … okay, I need help …
Bottom line, if you look at the promotional material of Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey and believe you’ll find your next guilty pleasure, I think you’ll get what you’re looking for. But you probably need to have a certain mindset going in: you’d have to know this IP and know that you’ll get at least some reaction to seeing it take such an aggressively dark turn. But even then, that novelty could wear off quickly. If you’re literally anyone else, this will only work for you if you’re looking for the most clichéd, bare-bones slasher that’s done with just enough competency to pass whatever low bar you’ve set. I think Blood and Honey is getting a bit too much hate because of what an easy target it is, but it’s still a bad movie. You just have to decide whether it’s the kind of bad movie you’re in the mood for.
Winnie The Pooh: Blood and Honey is now showing in US theaters. In the UK, the film will premiere at Glasgow FrightFest on March 10, 2023.