Released: 17th May
Seen: 20th May

On Jan 1st, 2022 the character of Winnie the Pooh entered the public domain. To be very specific, because this stuff is more needlessly complicated than it should be, the first book by A.A. Milne that was published in 1926 is now available for anyone to use however they like. The characters, plots, dialogue and everything in those pages can now be used in any way you like. Of course, you must be careful to avoid using the elements that Disney used for their adaptations (AKA, Winnie the Pooh can’t wear a red shirt because that’s a Disney thing) and you can’t use elements from any of the subsequent books (Aka Tigger won’t be public domain until 2024 because he doesn’t appear until the 1926 book “The House At Pooh Corner”) but if you stick with those rules you can do anything you want with the bear of very little brain.

When things like this enter the public domain there is almost a universal agreement, an unspoken rule that states someone is going to take the childhood icon and turn it into something horrific. It’s like a sign that this item is truly free from restraints, the very thing that no rights holder would ever allow is now being done because no one can actually stop it. The fact that this kind of thing can be done is a great sign, it means the public domain is getting richer and it means big companies have lost some of their IP. Hell, we’d probably have a lot more glorious insane bits of bullshit if Disney hadn’t ruined copyright law so much that it took 100 years for the bear with very little brains to be put in the public domain… now, this doesn’t mean that Winnie The Pooh: Blood and Honey does anything particularly great with the new toy that’s been put in the communal toybox, but at least someone is playing with it!

Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey tells the alternate story of what happened to the creatures who lived in the Hundred Acre Wood after Christopher Robin (Nikolai Leon) leaves for college and effectively abandons them. Turns out, because Christopher Robin kept bringing them food that Winnie (Craig David Dowsett), Piglet (Chris Cordell), Rabbit, Owl and Eeyore lost the ability to survive on their own and promptly began starving, which naturally lead to some cannibalism (RIP Eeyore) and turned them into bloodthirsty killers who want revenge on Christopher. They also stop talking at all, for totally legit reasons and not because the masks used for the characters are so bad that any attempt to make it look like they’re talking would be laughed off the screen.

Stupidly, Christopher Robin returns to the Hundred Acre Wood with his partner and sure enough Winnie the Pooh and Piglet kidnap Christopher and kill his partner, before going off to do a mild murder spree at a house that is apparently somewhere near the woods filled with a bunch of people who can give this film a nice body count but have so little else to offer that their names will not be mentioned even once in this review.

Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey
Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey (2023)

Maybe this is just a personal thing but, as a concept, there’s nothing really wrong with doing a dark horror retelling of classic children’s stories. Sure it might be a little on the edge-lord side of things and it might be incredibly tasteless but if done well it can be the kind of dumb fun that you sometimes need. Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey really isn’t doing this well at all, which is a shame because you can see the potential hidden among the trees. 

Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey’s opening act, where Christopher Robin returns and gets kidnapped, is honestly the best part of the film where the entire joke is played out as well as one could hope. Elements of the opening are animated in a crude storybook style that feels at home in a Winnie the Pooh story but with everything just being a little twisted to sell the idea. The design of the Hundred Acre Wood absolutely feels like something a kid and some friends would assemble if it was left to slowly rot over the years, the little details like the sign indicating that this is the Hundred Acre Wood or Eeyore’s grave are strange but feel like they belong here. They even cover up some of Christopher’s eventual kidnapping with another bit of strange animation, it feels like they have an idea here that could actually work if they stuck with it… and then Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey just changes into a generic home invasion film and it becomes boring as hell.

For the majority of Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey we are subjected to a gaggle of annoying characters with no personalities or distinguishing features to make them worthy of being remembered who are picked off in ways that could appear in literally any horror movie ever. Are the effects good? Sure, practical gore effects are always welcome and it’s undeniable that there is some great work being done here but none of it fits with the actual idea of the film. Every kill feels like it could be in any generic straight-to-VOD horror film that’s been thrown up on Tubi in the last 5 years, you could replace Pooh and Piglet with just a couple of big guys with bags on their heads (which isn’t far off from what Pooh and Piglet loook like in Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey) and lose nothing at all.

There are so many ways Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey could’ve actually had fun with the IP it’s now allowed to use. Do dark twisted takes on the image of Pooh floating with balloons, Pooh being stuck in Rabbit’s door, the honey jar stuck on Pooh’s head, the flood that almost took Piglet away. These are all in that first book, you’re telling me no one could go through and find ways to make dark twisted horror versions of these images and use them in this film? The best that we get is Piglet slowly walking through a pool with a sledgehammer and beating someone to death. That might be a mild reference to the flood surrounding Piglet but it’s not a good reference, it’s certainly not fun or stupid enough to be enjoyable. You have some of the most well-known characters here. with well-known references you could make and instead you just make a version of The Strangers but with less creative costume choices.

The constantly maddening thing is that there’s some real talent here, even on a micro-budget with 10 days to shoot a full-feature film. Some of the shots are actually quite stunning, the set design is top notch and there is no doubt that there is an understanding of what makes for a decent horror film in this creative team. Some sequences could work with a different killer or maybe a mild change in the script, you can see where these people could make a good fun thrilling horror movie if they had the time and budget to fully realise their ideas but either that didn’t happen or I’m giving them too much credit because that’s not what happened here.

Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey just doesn’t seem to get what it wants to be, or at the bare minimum doesn’t know how to get there. It’s a film that thinks the joke begins and ends with “It’s a horror film starring Winnie the Pooh” but that joke stops being funny or interesting within 10 minutes and after that, there is nothing to offer. Calling it try-hard implies that they tried and after a certain point it feels like they just wanted to get this done as quickly as possible so they could stake their claim as the first to do this. What should’ve been stupidly fun ends up being a snore-fest. If anyone was the target audience for this nonsense it was me, and they gave me nothing to enjoy. The horror film about a bear with very little brain is a film with very little to offer.

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