Warning: there are SPOILERS for the entirety of “Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey” ahead
“Don’t go down to the woods today,” warns a newsreader at the beginning of “Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey,” a new micro-budget slasher which follows the story of A.A. Milne’s classic characters Pooh and Piglet – now out of copyright – after they’re abandoned by Christopher Robin when he goes off to college. Left to their own devices, the animals (which are supposed to be a combination of flesh and plush, director Rhys Frake-Waterfield tells Variety) starve before morphing into monstrous killers who lurk in the Hundred Acre Wood.
Unfortunately, Maria (played by Maria Taylor) doesn’t know any of this when her therapist advises her to go on a weekend away with her friends to recover from PTSD after dealing with a stalker – “somewhere which might feel safer and to take your mind off everything’s that happened.”
As Maria and her friends pitch up in a secluded cottage in the middle of Hundred Acre Wood, audiences know the women are going to be anything but safe. But even slasher fans may not anticipate quite how bonkers this movie, which opens in U.S. theaters today, really is.
Which is why Variety sat down with Frake-Waterfield and producer Scott Jeffrey to unpack some of the most WTF moments in the movie.
Pooh and Piglet Eat Eeyore
In the film’s animated opening credits audiences see Pooh and Piglet turn on their equine friend for sustenance. “I knew I was completely fine with killing [Eeyore] because he’s so hard to portray well cinematically,” says Frake-Waterfield. The director explains that to depict Eeyore on screen the options were to make him CG (“which on these budgets would look absolutely terrible”) or have two actors in a donkey suit. “So I thought, ‘Okay, he needs to die.’”
It doesn’t hurt that grumpy Eeyore is one of people’s least favorite characters. “He’s like the perfect one to die,” says Frake-Waterfield. “They wanted him put out of his misery because he’s just so glum and gloomy. So I thought he makes sense to kill early on.”
Winnie the Pooh Rips off a Woman’s Top Before Feeding Her Into a Woodchipper
Chronically late Tina (played by May Kelly) is the last of her friends to drive into Hundred Acre Wood but the first to die after she stumbles into a creepy abandoned barn where she is swiftly dispatched by Pooh and his pal. Most of the scene was improvised, reveals Frake-Waterfield. “I got there, saw the space and then we were like, ‘Okay, we can’t do what I wanted to do,’” he says. But then they stumbled across the woodchipper and quickly re-worked the scene around it.
As for the gratuitous nudity, Frake-Waterfield says it was Kelly’s idea. “She took me aside and said, ‘Please, can I do this, it’ll be funny, no one will expect it,’” he recalls. “It wasn’t scripted at all.” Producer Scott Jeffrey adds the scene was shot after stills of another of Pooh’s victims – played by a bikini-clad Natasha Tosini – exploded across the internet last year. “[Kelly] was like, ‘I want to outdo her. I want to go viral,’” says Jeffrey.
Piglet and Pooh’s Lair is Powered by…. an Exercise Bike
In the opening scenes, the audience sees a grown-up Christopher Robin and his wife Mary creeping around Pooh and Piglet’s ramshackle lair in the dark depths of Hundred Acre Wood. Between the blood, torture instruments and skulls strewn across the hideout there sits, somewhat incongruously, an exercise bike. Which Piglet hops on and starts pedalling. “We wanted to try and come up with a fun way to explain how this really rural isolated cabin had a little bit of electricity going around,” says Frake-Waterfield, who as it happens, used to work for an electricity supplier before becoming a director. “So that’s why he goes on the bike and generates the power at points.” Now you know.
Piglet Hogties a Victim While Pooh Runs Over Her Head
While it’s easy to dismiss “Blood and Honey” as just another mindless slasher, Frake-Waterfield has peppered the film with symbolism. In one scene, where Piglet and Pooh chloroform Tosini in a hot tub before tying her up and running over her head with a car, the director deliberately chose to shackle the actor with a particular type of restraint. “I specifically wanted her to be hogtied because Piglet,” he says. “I thought it was a nice little link.”
Frake-Waterfield adds that originally, because the film was so constrained by time and budget, Tosini’s death was going to be off screen. “So you see the car bump over, but you don’t see any of the gore and the effects,” he says. “But I realized in the edit, it was about seven or eight minutes of build up and then when you don’t see anything after it’s a bit of a downer, because you want some sort of payoff. So the gore shots, they were all re-shot and they were a mixture of practical and VFX. We got the SFX artist to have her eyeball hanging out of her head from the pressure of the car. And then in VFX just squished it a little bit as the car wheel’s going there.”
Pooh Whips Christopher Robin… with Eeyore’s Tail
They may once have been best friends but by the time Christopher Robin returns to Hundred Acre Wood there is no love lost between the tubby little cubby and his erstwhile owner. As demonstrated in the scene in which he strings Christopher up by his arms and repeatedly whips him with an instrument that eagle-eyed fans may notice looks uncannily like a donkey’s tail. “The rest of Eeyore’s dead, but they’ve kept [the tail] as a memento,” explains Frake-Waterfield. “Now he’s using that to like, punish Christopher.”
The director adds he’d planned to put a bow on the tail during the shoot but “I was running out of time on the day.” Instead, viewers should listen out for the faint sound of a donkey as Pooh selects which device to torture Christopher with. “That’s meant to just give you a little clue,” Frake-Waterfield says.
Piglet Eats a Woman’s Face Coated in Honey
Giving us the poetic “blood and honey” of the film’s title, we see Piglet coat a woman’s face in honey before mauling it. “Piglet is a bit sadistic,” explains Frake-Waterfield. “So I kind of had this idea, with those scenes, that what would happen is Pooh would always put honey on her face and then Piglet would be using that to like maul and bite and eat off some of the honey along with some of her flesh. That’s like the blood and the honey mixing together.”
As befitting a culture obsessed with both wellness and turning kids’ cartoons into slasher films, there is also a more practical reason for the honey. “It’s got antibacterial properties,” the director says. “It kind of helps keep [the victims] fresher for longer.”
Jeffrey adds: “But also the honey is a bit like ketchup, do you know what I mean? It’s like what you’d dip your chips in sort of thing.”