In its opening minutes, the children’s story-themed slasher Winnie-The-Pooh: Blood and Honey shows a hint of genuine promise. Obviously this public domain cash-grab was never going to be some masterpiece of the cinema, but in the (barely) animated opening exposition, I was reminded of the camp classic Jack Frost (not the one with Michael Keaton), as a faux-solemn British voice intones over animatics reminiscent of the classic absurdist webcomic Achewood, telling a sordid tale of betrayal and desperation, ultimately leading to murderous madness.
Christopher Robin (played as an adult by Nikolai Leon), you see, eventually abandoned his friends at Hundred Acre Wood (who are real, living animals and not Hobbesian toys brought to life by a child’s imagination) for college, and when winter came without his return, they were faced with starvation and forced to kill and eat Eeyore to survive; one assumes the mopey donkey passive-aggressively offered himself up for this martyrdom. Enraged at Christopher and, by extension, all of humanity, the remaining animals take a vow to return to the wild and never speak again.
Thus begins the problem with this surprisingly humorless killer teddy bear movie. What a missed opportunity it is not to give Pooh and Piglet pre- and post-mortem quips in the whimsical style of A.A. Milne’s original writing! If writer-director (and low-budget quickie production multi-hyphenate extraordinaire) Rhys Frake-Waterfield felt his own cleverness not up to the task of writing new dialogue in the style of Milne (an astute self-assessment, to be sure), he could at least have ripped off pre-existing dialogue wholesale and ironically juxtaposed it with the gruesome kills, making the movie more fun by half.
Instead, the modest promise of that opening sequence and the general novelty of the idea of a killer Pooh movie are largely squandered on a rote slasher full of forgettable and interchangeable victims. Er, I mean, “characters.” Maria (Maria Taylor) just barely distinguishes herself from the rest of the murder-fodder by telling her friends a story of an experience with a creepy stalker, telegraphing her status as the movie’s Final Girl without actually adding any real nuance to her character, or paying off in any way later. Pooh and Piglet are likewise uninteresting and interchangeable in their generic murderousness, and for all the effort shown in either performance or character design, the killers in this movie might as well just be two big guys wearing rubber masks. Which, of course, they are.
Though the kills are bloody and just creative enough to satisfy gorehounds (one involves a woodchipper, because bad movies like this just can’t stop reminding you of great ones you could be watching instead), any audience connection to the characters is extremely low even by slasher movie standards, so there’s no real impact when anyone dies. In fact, the first few are introduced solely to be killed, just uber-expendables who got separated from the herd, allowing them to be picked off without prematurely alerting the rest. None too unusual for a slasher flick, really, but when even Christopher Robin is reduced to little more than another personality-free victim, it begs the question of why the movie is about Pooh at all. Owl and Rabbit are conspicuously absent after the introduction, and Tigger doesn’t even get a mention; whether this is a budgetary failure or one of imagination is unclear, but it’s probably both. Frake-Waterfield (he has no fewer than eight credits on the picture, so I feel comfortable primarily blaming him) was apparently so preoccupied with whether or not he could graft Pooh and Piglet onto a slasher movie that he didn’t stop to think if he should.
The whole joyless mess ends with stupefying abruptness, as Pooh mindlessly stabs away at his final victim and Christopher Robin manages to make his escape, paving the way for a franchise no one in their right mind is excited about. The IMDb page for Winnie-The-Pooh: Blood and Honey 2 boasts the amusing synopsis “Plot under wraps,” as if it’s the next Christopher Nolan joint or something. To describe the “plot” of this first entry as paper-thin is rather generous, but who knows, the sequel just might surprise us all.
I hear Bambi may be involved.