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Winnie-the-Pooh: Blood and Honey

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Winnie-the-Pooh: Blood and Honey
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRhys Frake-Waterfield
Screenplay byRhys Frake-Waterfield
Based on
Winnie-the-Pooh
by
Produced by
Starring
  • Craig David Dowsett
  • Chris Cordell
  • Amber Doig-Thorne
  • Nikolai Leon
  • Maria Taylor
  • Natasha Rose Mills
  • Danielle Ronald
Narrated byToby Wynn-Davies
CinematographyVince Knight
Edited byRhys Frake-Waterfield
Music byAndrew Scott Bell
Production
companies
  • Jagged Edge Productions
  • ITN Studios
Distributed byAltitude Film Distribution
Release dates
  • 26 January 2023 (2023-01-26) (Mexico)
  • 10 March 2023 (2023-03-10) (United Kingdom)
Running time
84 minutes[1]
CountryUnited Kingdom[1]
LanguageEnglish
Budget$100,000[2]
Box office$5.2 million[3][4]

Winnie-the-Pooh: Blood and Honey is a 2023 British independent slasher film produced, directed, written, and edited by Rhys Frake-Waterfield. The first installment of The Twisted Childhood Universe (TCU),[5] it serves as a horror retelling of A. A. Milne and E. H. Shepard's Winnie-the-Pooh books and stars Craig David Dowsett as the titular character, and Chris Cordell as Piglet, with Amber Doig-Thorne, Nikolai Leon, Maria Taylor, Natasha Rose Mills, and Danielle Ronald in supporting roles. It follows Pooh and Piglet, who have become feral murderers, as they terrorise a group of young university women and Christopher Robin when he returns to the Hundred Acre Wood five years after leaving for college.

The film was first announced in May 2022, when it drew widespread attention due to its premise involving a character that was a childhood icon, and it was met with divided reactions. It was produced by Jagged Edge Productions in association with ITN Studios and went into development after the 1926 Winnie-the-Pooh book entered the public domain in the United States in January 2022. The film was shot in 10 days in the Ashdown Forest of East Sussex, England, which serves as inspiration for the Hundred Acre Wood.

Winnie-the-Pooh: Blood and Honey was originally set for a nationwide one-night event, but a spike in online popularity expanded it to a major worldwide theatrical release. It premiered in Mexico on 26 January 2023, and was theatrically released in the United States on 15 February 2023, and in the United Kingdom on 10 March 2023. The film was panned by critics, with many considering it one of the worst films of all time, and received five Golden Raspberry Awards, including Worst Picture. Despite this, the film was a commercial success, grossing $5.2 million worldwide on a budget of $100,000. A sequel, Winnie-the-Pooh: Blood and Honey 2, was released on 26 March 2024.

Plot[edit]

Years ago, a young Christopher Robin met and befriended a group of anthropomorphic creatures—Owl, Rabbit, Eeyore, Piglet, and Winnie-the-Pooh—in the Hundred Acre Wood. After Christopher abandoned them for college to become a doctor, added to the arrival of winter and no food to eat, the starved creatures cannibalized Eeyore and vowed to return to their feral instincts.

Five years later, Christopher, now an adult, returns to the Hundred Acre Wood, accompanied by his fiancée Mary (whom he met during his studies), and finds the place deserted. At night, the couple are ambushed by Piglet, who strangles Mary with a chain and breaks her neck, before he and Pooh drag Christopher into the woods.

Sometime later, university students Maria, Jessica, Alice, Zoe, Lara, and Tina rent a cabin in the Hundred Acre Wood. Tina, lost in the woods, is ambushed by Pooh. She hides in a nearby garage, but Pooh finds her and beats her before throwing her into a woodchipper. Later, back in his treehouse, Pooh whips Christopher with Eeyore's tail and showers him with Mary's blood.

As night falls, Pooh and Piglet ambush the cabin. Pooh runs Lara's head over with a car while Piglet kills Zoe with a sledgehammer. Maria and Jessica arrive, watching Alice being abducted. They follow Pooh and eventually rescue Alice. Afterwards, the trio break into Pooh’s treehouse, freeing Christopher from his chains as well as another hostage, Charlene. She explains her plan to get revenge on Piglet, who mutilated her face. Charlene summons Piglet, but he mauls her to death. Pooh chases Maria and Jessica into the woods, but Alice stays behind and ambushes Piglet. After Alice knocks Piglet unconscious with his sledgehammer, Pooh arrives and stabs her to death through her open mouth.

On the road, Maria and Jessica seek help from a group of local men passing by, whom Pooh easily slaughters. Maria attempts to run Pooh over with their pick-up truck but crashes, blacking out. Upon awakening, she witnesses Pooh dragging Jessica away, then decapitating her. Christopher suddenly appears and crushes Pooh between the truck and his car. Pooh only barely survives and frees himself, grabs Maria and holds her at knifepoint. Christopher pleads for Pooh to release her, promising to stay with him forever, but Pooh breaks his vow of silence by telling Christopher "You left", before slashing Maria’s throat. Seeing that his former friend is now beyond help, Christopher flees the woods as Pooh repeatedly stabs Maria's corpse.

Cast[edit]

  • Nikolai Leon as Christopher Robin
    • Frederick Dallaway as young Christopher Robin
  • Maria Taylor as Maria
  • Natasha Rose Mills as Jessica
  • Amber Doig-Thorne as Alice
  • Danielle Ronald as Zoe
  • Natasha Tosini as Lara
  • Paula Coiz as Mary
  • May Kelly as Tina
  • Danielle Scott as Charlene
  • Craig David Dowsett as Winnie-the-Pooh
  • Chris Cordell as Piglet
  • Marcus Massey as Colt
  • Richard D. Myers as Logan
  • Simon Ellis as Tucker
  • Jase Rivers as John
  • Mark Haldor as Darrell
  • Toby Wynn-Davies as the Narrator

Production[edit]

Development[edit]

While the illustrations from the original 1926 book went into the U.S. public domain along with its text, Frake-Waterfield had to avoid any elements that were unique to Disney's depictions of the character.
The film's director Rhys Frake-Waterfield discusses the character design process for the film's version of Winnie-the-Pooh

On 24 May 2022, Josh Korngut of Dread Central reported that a Winnie-the-Pooh-based horror film adaptation was in development.[6] The characters' rights had been owned by The Walt Disney Company since 1966 and, while Disney retains exclusive rights to the depictions of these characters from their own franchise, the first Winnie-the-Pooh book went into the public domain in the U.S. on 1 January 2022.[7] After the copyright lapsed, Rhys Frake-Waterfield began development on Winnie-the-Pooh: Blood and Honey the same year.[7] Speaking to Variety, Frake-Waterfield described the plot as both Winnie-the-Pooh and Piglet turning into homicidal maniacs after Christopher Robin leaves them for college. He stated:

Christopher Robin is pulled away from them, and he's not [given] them food, it's made Pooh and Piglet's life quite difficult... Because they've had to fend for themselves so much, they've essentially become feral. So they've gone back to their animal roots. They're no longer tame: they're like a vicious bear and pig who want to go around and try and find prey.[8]

The masks used for Pooh and Piglet in the film were created by the American prosthetic-mask manufacturing company Immortal Masks.[9] On 16 February 2023, Frake-Waterfield explained in an interview with Yahoo! Entertainment that the first draft of the film was meant to be more close to the original source material. However, The Walt Disney Company still retained the exclusive rights to the depictions of these characters from their own franchise, so Waterfield had to scrap the original script and rewrote it to avoid any legal trouble.[10]

Filming[edit]

Ashdown Forest, which is known for being the inspiration of the Hundred Acre Wood, the main setting of the Winnie-the-Pooh stories, was used as the filming location for Winnie-the-Pooh: Blood and Honey, where it was shot for 10 days.

Principal photography for Winnie-the-Pooh: Blood and Honey began in April 2022, with filming taking place in the Ashdown Forest of East Sussex, England over a period of 10 days.[11][12] Jagged Edge Productions produced the film in collaboration with ITN Studios.[13] Frake-Waterfield did outfit Pooh with a red shirt, but was careful to avoid other iconic elements from Disney's depictions that could pose a copyright issue.[7]

After the increased popularity of the film, ITN gave the film an increased budget, leading to several days of reshoots. This would lead to the film being the most expensive film Waterfield ever directed and the most expensive film produced by ITN, with a budget of under $50,000.[14][12][2]

Music[edit]

In July 2022, American composer Andrew Scott Bell was announced as a provider for the score.[15][16] On 14 July 2022, Bell uploaded a video to YouTube titled "Winnie-the-Pooh: Blood, Honey, and Violins" that documented how he drove from Los Angeles to San Francisco, with his manager Mike Rosen, to collect a honeycomb-filled violin from an experimental luthier to compose the film's soundtrack.[17] In an interview with Dread Central, Bell explained how he got involved with the production of Winnie-the-Pooh: Blood and Honey upon hearing about the film after it went viral upon the announcement. He said:

Back in late May, a day or so before the film went massively viral, I started seeing some online chatter about a Winnie-the-Pooh horror movie. I remember looking it up on IMDb and finding the director Rhys Frake-Waterfield on Instagram where his story had a screenshot of a person's comment saying something to the effect of "your movie is ruining our childhoods". His reaction was, "that's what I'm trying to do, ruin everyone's childhood".[18]

Release[edit]

Winnie-the-Pooh: Blood and Honey was originally planned to be released in October 2022, but the increased publicity and reshoots motivated the change to a 2023 theatrical release.[14] The film premiered in Mexico on 26 January 2023, and was released by Cinemex.[19] It was originally set to be released for a one-night event across cinemas in the United States, United Kingdom and Canada in February 2023, with Fathom Events and Altitude Film Distribution acquiring the rights to release it in their respective countries.[20]

In January 2023, it was announced that the film had been given an expanded theatrical release starting on February 15 in the United States.[21][22] The film was then released in the United Kingdom on 10 March 2023.[23] For one week, the film was re-released in cinemas in the United States on 17 March 2023.[24] A Hong Kong release was cancelled due to purported technical glitches, but the film may have been censored due to Internet memes comparing Winnie-the-Pooh to CCP general secretary Xi Jinping;[25] Christopher Robin was banned in 2018 for that reason.[26]

Marketing[edit]

After the film's announcement, Salon writer Kelly McClure wrote the film is "a perfect example of the wrong that could come from a creative work slipping into public domain." She continued, calling the film a "horrific take" on Winnie-the-Pooh, also stating "you've got the makings of a dark and twisted cult classic."[27] Jon Mendelsohn, writing for Collider, called the film images "nightmare fuel" and the concept "extremely bizarre" while noting "the internet is freaking out."[28] Rotem Rusak, writing for Nerdist, wrote, "Seeing the iconic bear reimagined as a nightmarish slasher monster speaks to a delightfully imaginative spirit that really inspires us."[29] Justin Carter of Gizmodo wrote:

The appeal of Blood and Honey will depend entirely on if you're willing to meet the movie halfway on its premise, and aren't immediately turned off by the idea of children's characters being turned into murderers or having some dark, edgy backstory. The internet was filled with that sort of thing just a decade or so ago, and this feels like it's very much pulling from that same cloth.[30]

Katarina Feder of Artnet wrote, "...you can't buy publicity like the kind they've had and something tells me that this indie passion project will find its funding, bringing to life the director's unique ideas about murdering women in bikinis."[31]

Home media[edit]

In the United Kingdom, a collector's edition was released on Blu-ray on 5 April 2023.[32] A more basic release came out on 14 April 2023. It got a digital release on Amazon Prime in the United States on 11 April 2023.[33] On 2 June 2023, it got a widespread release across many streaming platforms such as iTunes and Vudu.

Reception[edit]

Box office[edit]

Winnie-the-Pooh: Blood and Honey grossed $2 million in the United States and Canada, and $3 million in other territories, including over $1 million in Mexico, for a worldwide total of $5.2 million.[34][3][4]

Critical response[edit]

On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, 3% of 62 critics' reviews are positive, with an average rating of 2.2/10. The website's consensus reads: "Oh, bother."[35] Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigned the film a score of 16 out of 100, based on 19 critics, indicating "overwhelming dislike".[36]

Christian Zilko of IndieWire scored the film a grade of C+, panning the film's screenplay, but felt that the film "punches above its weight" in the craftsmanship of its kills.[37] Luke Thompson of The A.V. Club criticised the cheap production values and lack of a coherent story, while also noting that the film fulfils its promise of a slasher film based on a beloved children's book.[38] Polygon's Tasha Robinson felt that certain elements such as the gore and inherent grotesqueness of the material worked well, but added that the film's poor dialogue, lack of humour, and connection to its basic source material ruined an interesting premise.[39]

Dennis Harvey of Variety was highly critical of the film for its lack of humour, poor acting, and incoherent screenplay, summarising that the film "fail[ed] to meet even the most basic expectations set up by its conceptual gimmick".[40] Michael Gingold for Rue Morgue felt that the film lacked any sort of wit or imagination to successfully implement upon its premise; Gingold additionally pointed out the "drab" cinematography, absence of characterisation for its title villain, and messy production only served to make the film easily forgettable.[41] Rating the film 1.5 out of 4 stars, Nick Allen from RogerEbert.com wrote that it failed as both a comedy and a horror film, noting the poorly lit scenes in the film made it hard to decipher what was happening on screen, while echoing other critics' sentiments on the writing and lack of interesting characters.[42]

Accolades[edit]

Award / Film Festival Date of ceremony Category Recipient(s) Result Ref.
Golden Raspberry Awards March 9, 2024 Worst Picture Scott Jeffrey and Rhys Frake-Waterfield Won [43]
Worst Director Rhys Frake-Waterfield Won
Worst Screenplay Won
Worst Screen Couple Pooh & Piglet as Blood-Thirsty Slasher/Killers(!) Won
Worst Prequel, Remake, Rip-off or Sequel Winnie-the-Pooh: Blood and Honey Won

Future[edit]

Sequel[edit]

In June 2022, Frake-Waterfield expressed interest in creating a sequel, and stated that he wants to "ramp it up even more and go even crazier and go even more extreme".[44] In November 2022, he announced that a sequel, currently titled Winnie-the-Pooh: Blood and Honey 2, was in development with him returning as director and writer, on a budget "five times" larger than the previous instalment. The sequel began filming in late 2023,[45] with an anticipated release date of February 2024.[12] In August 2023, Frake-Waterfield announced that Pooh will use a chainsaw as a weapon in the sequel.[46][47][48] That September, Pooh, and Piglet were confirmed to have new designs in teaser images,[49] with the new characters Owl and Tigger also confirmed to appear.[50] Actors Scott Chambers, Ryan Oliva and Eddy McKenzie replaced Nikolai Leon, Craig-David Dowsett and Chris Cordell as Christopher Robin, Pooh and Piglet, respectively. The film was theatrically released on 26 March 2024 to a mixed critical response, although critics described it as an improvement over its predecessor.

Shared universe and other projects[edit]

Alongside the announcement of a sequel, two other horror films were announced: Bambi: The Reckoning and Peter Pan's Neverland Nightmare based on Bambi, a Life in the Woods and Peter and Wendy respectively.[51][52][53] In February 2023, Frake-Waterfield announced that the various projects take place in the same shared continuity franchise, while Jagged Edge Productions intends to eventually have the characters feature in crossover events.[54] In January 2024, it was revealed that The Adventures of Pinocchio would also be adapted into a horror film that is set within the same continuity, titled Pinocchio: Unstrung.[55] Other characters that will expand the universe and future projects were displayed through drawings during the end credits of Winnie-the-Pooh: Blood and Honey 2.[56] In March 2024, the series' first crossover film titled Poohniverse: Monsters Assemble was revealed, with Scott Chambers confirmed to be reprising his role as Christopher Robin as well as Roxanne McKee returning as Xana from Bambi: The Reckoning, along with brand new characters such as Sleeping Beauty, the Talking Cricket and the Mad Hatter.[57]

Frake-Waterfield in speculation also expressed interest in making films about Thor,[58] as well as copyrighted franchises such as Teletubbies, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and The Powerpuff Girls.[59][60]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]