There’s nothing wrong with putting familiar characters in a new genre; The Muppets made a career of it. With the earliest of AA Milne’s stories now out of copyright, this horror twist on the Hundred Acre Wood could have been a witty, punky spin on ‘Winnie the Pooh’.
Unfortunately, writer-director Rhys Frake-Waterfield’s has made just another sadistic slasher movie, notably only for its inexpressive animal masks.
Here, a gang of mutant beasts have turned to cannibalism and murder after their childhood friend, Christopher Robin (Nikolai Leon), grew up and stopped bringing them food. Now Pooh and Piglet attack anyone who ventures nearby – notably Chris Robin, back for a visit, and a pack of girl friends on a weekend break.
The issue is not so much the abuse of beloved childhood icons as the assumption that having Piglet kill people is enough to carry a movie. Apart from regularly dripping honey from his motionless snout, this Pooh (Craig David Dowsett) has nothing in common with Milne’s creation; rather than having to run from bees, for example, he seems to control them, judging by one, entirely unexplained third act scene.
It revels in misogyny and titillation and gore, but forgets to give us characters
It’s very bad – and worse, it’s a missed opportunity. Copyright law really is unfit for purpose; it fails to ensure that creators are rewarded in life and stops innovation or reinvention by others. If Frake-Waterfield had done something exciting or clever here, he might have drawn attention to those shortcomings or said something powerful about the current cinema’s over-reliance on familiar IP. Instead, he piggybacks on an existing name to draw attention to a substandard slasher. Copyright thus comes out of this looking like the good guy, because at least it might have stopped this risible dialogue, poor direction, shaky accents, confused storytelling and those stiff monster faces.
If you’re going to adopt beloved icons to tell your story, it should ideally be to use their power to say something, or make us laugh, or add power to an already coherent narrative. Instead this revels in misogyny and titillation and gore, and forgets to give us any sort of character or texture. This is not a so-bad-it’s-good cult classic. It’s not thumbing your nose at the Disney establishment that still owns the rights to much of Milne’s work. It’s just sad.
In UK cinemas Mar 10.