Film Review: Winnie-the-Pooh: Blood and Honey II surpasses its predecessor with a gory glee

Though it’s less of a shock practice now, the idea of a classic literary figure that became a household name under the umbrella of Disney being transformed into something adult and horrific rightfully broke – and angered – the internet when it was announced that Winnie-the-Pooh: Blood and Honey would be made off the back of the character’s existence entering the public domain.

The characters – Winnie-the-Pooh and Piglet – were transformed into bloodthirsty killers in the vein of Jason Vorhees and Michael Myers, and the result was an incredibly divisive, critically slaughtered affair that is oft dubbed one of the worst films of all time; it currently holds a 3% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Such controversy ultimately helped the film garner a certain infamy though, and no matter how bad viewers though it was, it pooled in over $5 million at the box office, and off a reported $100,000 budget, that equates to enviable success – whether people like or not!

The monetary success of the first film is a great reason as to why Winnie-the-Pooh: Blood and Honey II surpasses the original from a production point of view.  It’s evident that a few more dollars were spent, and it helps director Rhys Frake-Waterfield lean into his gory sensibilities with a film that honours the cheesy, shameless temperament of a 1980s slasher.

But in the realms of being a sequel, Blood and Honey II makes an interesting narrative choice, with the events of the first film being treated as an in-universe adaptation of Christopher Robin’s horrific ordeal.  This meta touch means Frake-Waterfield and screenwriter Matt Leslie (Summer of 84) get to reset their vision, acknowledging the first film’s imperfections in the process, whilst gleefully expanding the lore.

It also means we’re treated to a more digestible Christopher Robin through the performance of Scott Chambers (replacing the heavily criticised Nikolai Leon from the original), here portraying the “real” Christopher as someone who’s trying to navigate his life around the various accusations he’s hit with from those who are judging him solely from outside material.

Whilst the creatives involved certainly earn points for attempting to make Blood and Honey II a deeper, more substantial film than the first – which ultimately suffered from underwhelming execution – the balance of melodrama and massacre isn’t always sound.  There’s perhaps a bit too much focus on the damage of Christopher Robin, and though it’s an interesting aspect – and Chambers delivers a fine performance – in a film such as this, it can’t help but feel like the momentum is so often broken.

That being said, there’s a structure here that the first film was missing, and for those open to the gory nonsense such a story can give way to, Blood and Honey II deliriously delivers on all accounts.  Pooh and Piglet hone a further aggressiveness that complements Frake-Waterfield’s mentality, the inclusion of Owl and Tigger mean there’s more danger lurking around every corner, and the sheer volume of self-aware brutality more than makes up for the missed opportunities of the original.  A rave sequence towards the back end of the film offers up a slew of wince-inducing kills, but no moment truly hits harder than what is presented in the opening minutes, where limbs are horrifically broken and an appropriate beartrap is utilised to its expected effect.

As much as Blood and Honey II enjoys itself and outperforms its predecessor – let’s face it, the bar was quite low – it’s still a victim of questionable acting from the majority of the ensemble, its pacing isn’t always favoured, and it doesn’t always rise above its baseness.

This is the type of film that has a certain fan base built in, and for those who wanted something more – or anything, really – from Blood and Honey, you’re more than likely to be satiated with the pot of fluid and flavour that this continuation-cum-reboot dishes out.  The expectations for Blood and Honey II may have been low, but the fact that this savage “sequel” defies them as much as it does is enough to be thankful for seconds.

TWO STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Winnie-the-Pooh: Blood and Honey II is screening in Australian theatres for a special event long weekend from March 28th to April 1st, 2024.

Peter Gray

Film critic with a penchant for Dwayne Johnson, Jason Momoa, Michelle Pfeiffer and horror movies, harbouring the desire to be a face of entertainment news.