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Movie Review: “WINNIE-THE-POOH: BLOOD AND HONEY II” is b-i-double-guh-er but not much better

Thursday, March 28, 2024 | Reviews


Starring Scott Chambers, Tallulah Evans and Ryan Oliva
Directed by Rhys Frake-Waterfield
Written by Matt Leslie
Fathom Events

I’m not often one to harbor conspiracy theories, but this critic did have to wonder about the fact that, after I was told no advance screeners of WINNIE-THE-POOH: BLOOD AND HONEY II would be available, several reviews turned up on-line ahead of the first theatrical showings, all of them positive. Particularly after seeing the film during its mercifully brief Fathom Events release this week, which revealed that it may be somewhat more expansive and expensive than its predecessor, but doesn’t begin to approach something worth even a streaming view, much less a trip to a theater.

Better than the previous WINNIE-THE-POOH: BLOOD AND HONEY? It couldn’t be much worse than that barrel-bottom scraper, which jumped on the new public-domain availability of A.A. Milne’s beloved characters, but took advantage of none of the satirical or truly transgressive possibilities in making them evil. Not only does the sequel continue to avoid any meaningful connection to its source, it further distances itself by coming up with a new backstory for its murderous critters, tied to that of Christopher Robin (now played by Scott Chambers, a.k.a. Scott Jeffrey, a producer on both POOHs). He is not just suffering lingering trauma from the grisly events of the first film, which have become known as the “Hundred Acre Massacre,” but is a pariah in the town of Ashdown, many of whose residents rather implausibly consider him responsible for the bloodshed.

The script by Matt Leslie, from a story by Leslie and director Rhys Frake-Waterfield, makes an early attempt to draw a commonality between Christopher and the bestial villains due to their shared outcast status, but does very little with this idea. Sporting somewhat improved makeup effects but still not convincing as human-animal hybrids, Pooh (Ryan Oliva) and Piglet (Eddy Mackenzie) are now joined by Owl (Marcus Massey), who much more closely resembles a vulture, and Tigger (Lewis Santer). The fiends are first seen in a grotesquely misogynistic setpiece torturing, mutilating and killing a few screaming, whimpering young women, which does not get things off to a promising start.

Those whose only interest is getting off on the gore may be disappointed that there are substantial stretches without mayhem in BLOOD AND HONEY II, which runs nearly 20 minutes longer than the original. When the creatures do get down to business, the lighting is frequently so dark and the camerawork so jerky that it’s hard to make out what’s happening. Even when Frake-Waterfield comes up with one cool trick involving a genre-favorite weapon, we don’t get a good enough look at it for the gambit to register. Eventually the film gets around to what is apparently supposed to be its raison d’etre, a lengthy massacre of guests at an underground rave. Quite a bit of this mayhem occurs offscreen before we’re back to the cruel, distasteful emphasis on female suffering, with Tigger addressing several victims as “bitch” while making like a low-rent imitation Freddy Krueger.

Meanwhile, Christopher undergoes hypnosis therapy that brings back memories of a repressed childhood horror borrowed from FIVE NIGHTS AT FREDDY’S. Investigating further, he visits a search engine called “Milne” (oof) and within about 30 seconds we see enough results to completely telegraph the revelations to come. Nonetheless, we then get a major exposition dump delivered by the fine British actor Simon Callow, whose preparation for his role evidently consisted of several stiff drinks. Given what we find out about Pooh and co.’s origins, there were opportunities here for interesting, dramatic confrontations in the later going, but they’re ignored in favor of more graphic but undistinguished brutality.

There’s little suspense in WINNIE-THE-POOH: BLOOD AND HONEY II anyway, and even less when seen with the Fathom Events intro featuring Frake-Waterfield and Chambers, since we then know the monsters can’t be defeated; they have to survive to take part in further entries in the cinematic “Poohniverse.” The duo inform us about their upcoming horrific variations on Pinocchio, Peter Pan and Bambi, and it’s telling when a sneak-preview clip from the latter is almost identical to a scene in BLOOD AND HONEY II. On the evidence so far, there’s no real ambition here other than to drop the familiar characters into generic terror scenarios, and take advantage of the ability to generate headlines claiming these flicks are “ruining your childhood.” My memories of the Milne tales are intact, thanks very much; the only part of my childhood these films are ruining is the one I spent watching independent horror movies made by real filmmakers, not low-budget opportunists.

Michael Gingold
Michael Gingold (RUE MORGUE's Head Writer) has been covering the world of horror cinema for over three decades, and in addition to his work for RUE MORGUE, he has been a longtime writer and editor for FANGORIA magazine and its website. He has also written for BIRTH.MOVIES.DEATH, SCREAM,, TIME OUT, DELIRIUM, MOVIEMAKER and others. He is the author of the AD NAUSEAM books (1984 Publishing) and THE FRIGHTFEST GUIDE TO MONSTER MOVIES (FAB Press), and he has contributed documentaries, featurettes and liner notes to numerous Blu-rays, including the award-winning feature-length doc TWISTED TALE: THE UNMAKING OF "SPOOKIES" (Vinegar Syndrome).