Movie Review: Winnie-the-Pooh: Blood and Honey

January 1, 2022 was a big day in the literary world. A number of important works entered the public domain, including A. A. Milne’s children’s classic, “Winnie-the-Pooh”, which was first published in 1926. That meant that the honey-loving bear and some, but not all, of his friends who inhabit 100 Acre Wood were available to anyone to use as they may. Now before you start selling your homemade Winnie-the-Pooh-themed embroidered tea towels and toilet paper covers on Etsy, be well aware that (a) Disney still owns the license to the anthropomorphic, unhyphenated cartoon character and (b) not all of Milne’s characters fell out of copyright on that day. Tigger, who first appeared in Milne’s 1928 sequel, “The House at Pooh Corner”, is still protected property until 2024.

With Winnie and most of his friends now fair game for creative types, it was inevitable that someone would take these beloved and wholesome characters and pervert their personas. First to the plate was Rhys Frake-Waterfield, a 31-year-old Brit who has produced a plethora of low-cost, trashy films in his brief career in the movie industry. When he announced that he was making a horror-slasher film with Winnie in the title role, netizens everywhere sat up and took notice. That film, WINNIE-THE-POOH: BLOOD AND HONEY, may or may not be coming to Hong Kong this week but more about that later.

The premise is great. Christopher Robin has grown up and gone off to university leaving his animal friends behind in 100 Acre Wood to fend for themselves. Faced with starvation, Winnie et al turn on each other and, lo and behold, they develop a taste for blood. Stories start emerging of mutilated bodies being found in the forest but that doesn’t stop Chris from bringing his young wife there to meet his childhood pals or from a group of young, buxom and brainless women from renting a house there for a girls-only weekend.

WINNIE-THE-POOH: BLOOD AND HONEY is a squandered opportunity. The movie is absolute rubbish with an unfunny and unscary story that makes no sense whatsoever, has inane dialogue, poor camerawork, inconsistent lighting and, not surprisingly, horrible acting. Made on a shoestring budget of just US$100,000 (and it shows), Frake-Waterfield, who served as the film’s writer, director, producer and editor, has proven to the world that even shit can float. The film has already taken in more than US$4 million at the box office, though that’s certainly due to all the free publicity the film has received. Frake-Waterfield has already announced a sequel, presumably with Tigger and a bigger budget, as well as films about Peter Pan and Bambi, who have also entered the public domain. He got lucky once; I can’t imagine that audiences will be as willing to give him a second chance after watching this dumpster fire.

The film was scheduled to open here in Hong Kong on Thursday (March 23rd) but was reportedly pulled yesterday. Calls and texts to the film’s distributor have gone unanswered so I can’t confirm what happened. Certainly, the distributor knew he was dealing with a dog of a film so I can’t imagine that he got cold feet at this late hour. Instead, I think he was pressured by our so-called “patriots” who would definitely be unhappy about Pooh being depicted on screen in such an unsavory manner. Images of the cartoon character have been censored from websites and social media sites north of the border since 2017, when it became an Internet proxy for a certain political leader. With the country’s National Security Law now affecting our lives in Hong Kong too, it may be that the distributor was “advised” not to release the film. While it’s a loss for free speech, it’s not a huge loss.

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