Winnie-the-Pooh: Blood and Honey 2 (2024, dir. Rhys Frake-Waterfield)

by | Jun 8, 2024

Certificate: 18

Running Time: 93 mins

UK Distributor: Altitude Films

UK Release Date: 7 June 2024

WHO’S IN WINNIE-THE-POOH: BLOOD AND HONEY 2?

Scott Chambers, Tallulah Evans, Ryan Oliva, Teresa Banham, Alec Newman, Simon Callow, Eddy MacKenzie, Lewis Santer, Marcus Massey, Nicola Wright, Thea Evans, Flynn Matthews, Toby Wynn-Davies, Mason Gold, Peter DeSouza-Feighoney

WHO’S BEHIND THE CAMERA?

Rhys Frake-Waterfield (director, writer, producer, editor), Matt Leslie (writer), Scott Jeffrey (producer), Andrew Scott Bell (composer), Vince Knight (cinematographer), Dan Allen (editor)

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

A murderous Winnie-the-Pooh (Oliva) sets his sights on a small town…

WHAT ARE MY THOUGHTS ON WINNIE-THE-POOH: BLOOD AND HONEY 2?

In the precious few years since being founded in 2020 by filmmakers and producers Rhys Frake-Waterfield and Scott Jeffrey, Jagged Edge Productions has reached a level of notoriety for their line of low-budget horror movies, many of which are based on myths and stories that belong within the public domain. Their most infamous outing is, of course, last year’s slasher Winnie-the-Pooh: Blood and Honey, which was quickly made after the expiration of copyright on A.A. Milne’s original books, and gained significant online attention for the fact that it was, in fact, a gory slasher movie where the killer was one of the most innocent characters in media history.

The movie itself, though, also gained infamy for the fact that it was really, really bad. With its cheap production values, stilted acting, dreadful dialogue and paper-thin characters, the film took a savage beating from critics (including myself) and was even “honoured” with five Razzies including Worst Picture. But as terrible a film as it may be, it gained a somewhat ironic cult audience in the same vein as The Room or Troll 2, and it was such a financial hit – with a worldwide total of $5 million against its punitive $50k budget – that not only was a sequel immediately greenlit, but it would be granted a 100% budget increase, meaning more money to improve pretty much everything that its predecessor became derided for.

And boy, was that money ever put to good use. Winnie-the-Pooh: Blood and Honey 2 is the kind of outrageous, over-the-top horror sequel that is in every way a significant improvement over what came before, with better effects, stronger filmmaking, and a far more advantageous take on its world-famous IP. Is it art? Hell no – but it is a gory, silly and unapologetically unpretentious blast.

The film, directed by Frake-Waterfield, picks up some time after Christopher Robin (now played by Scott Chambers) got away from his murderous friends in the Hundred Acre Wood – who, for context’s sake, became feral and vengeful after being supposedly abandoned by their human pal – but has become a local pariah for his suspected participation in the murders. Meanwhile, the actual killers – including Winnie-the-Pooh (Ryan Oliva), Piglet (Eddy MacKenzie), Owl (Marcus Massey) and Tigger (Lewis Santer) – carefully plot their next move, ultimately deciding to take their carnage to Chris’s hometown of Ashdown, where they begin slaughtering anyone unfortunate enough to cross them. Meanwhile, Chris dives deeper into a personal family trauma, which might involve a strange man played by Simon Callow and may also lead to a shocking reveal that ties back to that not-so-silly old bear himself.

The enormous leap in its budget is noticeable right away, with kills that are far more effective and gruesome (though occasionally you can still see the literal strings being pulled), and the prosthetics used to create Pooh, Piglet et al are quite impressive, a far cry from the extremely cheap-looking face masks they used in the first film. Frake-Waterfield also has freer reign to experiment with larger set-pieces and ambitious cinematography, including a sequence set at a rave where various scantily-dressed dancers are mercilessly slaughtered as the camera often goes for some extreme close-up shots of people’s head being ripped off, sometimes with a bear trap (Pooh’s weapon of choice, incidentally), and always with blood splattering from all directions. The acting is stronger as well, with Scott Chambers putting in a likeable lead turn as the ever-troubled Christopher Robin, and while many of the other characters are stock slasher movie archetypes, they’re at least made a bit more sympathetic by the sincere performances of these actors. Plus, with the original film being retconned as a film made within this universe, it gives the filmmakers more of a chance to go in all these more prosperous directions without feeling obliged to stick too closely to what came before (honestly, that’s probably for the best).

The in-universe lore of the characters is explored in greater detail, rather than it just being a by-the-numbers slasher movie where the killers happen to be Pooh and his friends, which is pretty much what the first film was. Frake-Waterfield, who also co-wrote the script with Matt Leslie, gives his take on Pooh a grim backstory that’s certainly giving Five Nights at Freddy’s – and incidentally, I found this movie to be far more entertaining than the actual Five Nights at Freddy’s movie – while also not taking itself too seriously, but not to an extent where it becomes an all-out comedy either. It does drag itself down with dumps of exposition when explaining certain bits that they clearly still couldn’t afford to actually show, but the script is still mindful of what kind of film it is, and is at least having a lot more fun with exploring the possibilities that come from such a wild premise. Not only that, but its closing hints of a much wider “Poohniverse” with horror-movie takes on other public domain childhood classics like Pinocchio, Peter Pan and Bambi all in the works, eventually leading to an Avengers-style crossover event, suggest even greater things to come in Jagged Edge’s illustrious future.

Like the first film, Winnie-the-Pooh: Blood and Honey 2 is pure exploitation movie trash, with questionable dialogue and over-the-top violence that would make even exploitation movie legend Herschell Gordon Lewis cringe. However, it at least has fun being trash, which can surprisingly make all the difference in the world.

SO, TO SUM UP…

Winnie-the-Pooh: Blood and Honey 2 is a significant improvement over its much cheaper and less enjoyable predecessor, with more effective violence and effects, as well as a deeper dive into the in-universe lore without taking itself too seriously, making it a campy bit of fun in spite of its overwhelming trashiness.

Three out of five stars

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