In May this year, Winnie-The-Pooh: Blood and Honey — a previously unheard of film — became a viral sensation based off a handful of promotional stills.
It’s rare that pictures from a still-to-be-released, ultra low-budget British horror movie cause a worldwide splash. But then, generally, those shots don’t feature Pooh Bear and Piglet, the lovable heroes of AA Milne’s classic tales, about to murder a bunch of sexy youngsters.
“Initially, the film was only [supposed to be] for a small, horror niche,” Winnie-The-Pooh: Blood and Honey’s writer/director/producer Rhys Frake-Waterfield tells Yahoo.
“It was meant to reach horror fans who like alternative universes.”
Instead, the posting of the snapshots online meant Frake-Waterfield woke up to Canadian primetime entertainment shows talking about his project.
Of course, the film has also caused something of a commotion since Milne’s original 1926 stories only became public domain property less than half-a-year ago, much to the chagrin of Disney, who have made millions off the author’s iconic characters.
It’s why the new slasher film uses hyphens in Winnie-the-Pooh’s name as it’s how Milne originally titled the bear. And in fact, despite what people might have assumed, Frake-Waterfield hasn’t been inundated with calls from Disney lawyers.
“I don’t want to go anywhere near their universe,” he says.
“There’re no red shirts, they’re three times the size of the Disney version, obviously they behave completely different. I haven’t tried to mimic anything.
"When I was preparing for this film, I didn’t watch a single reference from their version. I literally just looked at the 1926 one and then just went off on a tangent as much as I could.”
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And then there are Pooh and Piglet themselves. In a bid to distance himself even further, the writer chose to make them hybrids, that is, as he explains, 'half-bear-man and half-pig-man'.
“I like that Pooh and Piglet had this inner resentment because they’re intelligent,” he continues.
“They’ve got this resentment towards Christopher Robin. They feel he was their way of surviving. They’re a bit like a pet that was abandoned and they’ve just been left to fend for themselves. And the only way they’ve been able to survive up to now is deciding to go back to their inner nature.
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"Removing the cuddliness and go back to being vicious animals. And over time they’ve developed a sadistic tendency as well.”
That’s why – spoiler alert! – you’ll see scenes like the pair of them driving a car slowly over the head of a girl while she’s hog-tied on the ground. Pooh will be more Jason Voorhees, an alpha type who “is absolutely obsessed with honey and he just batters someone when he thinks they want his honey.”
Meanwhile, says Frake-Waterfield, “Piglet’s more the lunatic. He’s a lot less logical and dumber and he just goes mental and he’s more sadistic than Pooh. He likes to make people suffer.”
Either way, the filmmaker is excited for audiences to see his work, which is currently in post-production and should be out later this year. It’s a heady ride for a guy who, until quite recently, worked in corporate strategy for an energy company — a horror nerd watching the cinematic process from afar.
“And then I thought ‘okay, I really like this industry, it seems really cool…let’s just try it and give it a go,’” he says.
Hooking up with fellow producer Scott Jeffrey, Frake-Waterfield got more and more hands-on, working 12-hour days and building their company, Jagged Edge Productions. IMDb says they made eight movies in 2021 alone, but he suggests the database has accidentally missed out a few (the killer Christmas tree film is there though).
For now, he’s working on hard on the trailer and poster and will have to wait and see whether Winnie-The-Pooh: Blood and Honey can maintain its pre-release buzz.
“I know what I’d want to see,” he says. “I like sitting there and watching these fun films that are drawing on the line between horror and comedy. I wanted to make a film that horror fans would love.”
Not that he’s giving himself any downtime. “We’re trying to expand and grow as fast as we can,” he says. “It’s rare I get a day off – but that’s normal in the film industry.”
In fact, he’s directing another movie next week. It’s called Dinosaur Prison.
“It’s going to be absolutely insane,” he laughs.
Winnie-The-Pooh: Blood and Honey will be released late 2022. Expect a trailer soon.
Watch: AirBnB offers Pooh bear retreat