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A sequel that outslays its predecessor in every possible way, “Blood and Honey 2” offers a reset and gives horror fans what they came for.

Winnie the Pooh Blood and Honey 2

For anyone who hated Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey (which, judging by the reviews and online discourse, is most of you), you’re likely trepidatious about the film’s recently released sequel.

The first question you might have is why a film so criticized would have a greenlit sequel in the first place, especially one with ten times the budget of its predecessor. Well, my friends, that’s simple math. Blood and Honey might have topped many “Worst of 2023” lists, winning a slew of Razzies, but it was also a box office hit, making over five million dollars against a budget of just $50,000.

For those who didn’t see the original, you may also be wondering if Blood and Honey is really that bad. Well, objectively, yes.

Still, at the risk of losing all credibility before I talk about how well the sequel fares in comparison, Blood and Honey does have some things going for it.

It’s nasty and mean-spirited. While that’s a turnoff for many, slasher fans eagerly show up for a mercilessly brutal bloodbath. There are a decent number of gnarly and creative kills. Plus, I give the film props for subverting expectations with its exceedingly nihilistic ending.

The origin story for killer Pooh and Piglet was promising, and the beginning teased a much more exciting film. The idea of an intrinsically linked hero and villain, a la Michael Myers and Laurie Strode, is also intriguing.

The real problem with Blood and Honey is that it felt like a generic ultra-low-budget slasher, an adaptation of a beloved childhood classic in name only.  

While the concept promised satirical fun and self-aware silliness, audiences instead got a deadly serious, if sloppily executed, hack and slash with what looked like a couple of burley men wearing cheap Halloween animal masks.

It’s not entirely without merit for die-hard slasher fans, but it’s not nearly as much fun as you want it to be.

Part of Blood and Honey’s shortcomings could easily be chalked up to the minuscule budget, which no doubt contributes to the poor character design. But it would be disingenuous to boil all the problems down to limited resources. The film was poorly written and almost entirely plotless, making it tedious and meandering.

The characters were grossly underdeveloped, the acting was weak across the board, and the direction was equally uninspired.

Finally, the gratuitous brutalization of an almost entirely female cast of victims (save for one Christopher Robin, who gets sidelined very early on) feels borderline misogynistic — especially given how little effort is put into writing even one of the women characters.

The question then becomes, does Blood and Honey 2 make any effort to atone for its predecessor’s sins?

Surprisingly, the answer is yes — quite a lot of effort.

Just about every aspect of Blood and Honey 2 is infinitely better than the original.

Returning director Rhys Frake-Waterfield seems to have taken ample notes from the criticism hurled at his first Pooh outing.

This time around, he shares writing duties with talented screenwriter Matt Leslie (Summer of 84), and the script is far more interesting and investing.

There’s a much richer backstory. Some clever choices allow the sequel to deviate from the original in all the right ways while giving it a fun meta-framing and knowingly acknowledging everything the previous film did wrong.

Of course, the significantly expanded budget greatly improves the character design and makes the film look more cinematic.

It also seems to have afforded Frake-Waterfield the ability to hire stronger performers, including esteemed actor Simon Callow (Four Weddings and a Funeral, Shakespeare in Love, The Phantom of the Opera) and the excellent Scott Chambers as the new Christopher Robin.

This time around, the story centers itself on this pivotal character, correcting a considerable missed opportunity from the first film and leaning heavier into the dark fairytale aspects.

You actually care about Christopher, further elevating this film and making it more than just a meat sack murder frenzy — though, rest assured, you get plenty of that, too.

Reportedly inspired by the splatterific Terrifier 2, Blood and Honey 2 ramps up the carnage with a much, much higher body count and an ample dose of gleeful gore.

Winnie the Pooh Blood and Honey 2

The film wastes no time showing its desire to lean into the sick and twisted, and the pre-credits bloodbath will surely satisfy slasher fans.

A prolonged massacre at a rave filled with nubile bodies ripe for the picking is a deranged highlight. Kudos to Shaune Harrison, Paula Anne Booker-Harrison, and the entire SFX/makeup team for giving audiences a smorgasbord of great-looking kills and memorably over-the-top death scenes.

Jamie Sneddon also deserves praise for impressive production design, adding to the film’s much more polished production values, while Vince Knight delivers strong cinematography. The excellent score from composer Andrew Scott Bell provides the perfect blend of ferocious intensity, suspense, and emotional gravitas when needed.

Just about everyone lamented the absence of Tigger from Blood and Honey, necessitated by the character having not yet entered the public domain at the time of the first film’s release. In the sequel, Frake-Waterfield and Leslie make the most of their new addition, and Lewis Santer delivers as the appropriately manic, wise-cracking menace.

But the real standout is another new addition, the gorgeously designed and truly terrifying Owl (Marcus Massey) as the de facto leader of the group.

Ryan Oliva gives the central antagonist, Pooh, a strong physicality and intimidating presence, enhanced dramatically by the upgraded redesign of his mask.

Together with Tigger, the murderous duo slashes through bodies with sadistic and wildly excessive cruelty reminiscent of Art the Clown.

Winnie the Pooh Blood and Honey 2

Interestingly, Piglet’s role (Eddy MacKenzie) is almost nonexistent in the sequel.

Is Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey 2 a masterpiece? That’s a stretch. However, it does exactly what it sets out to do and delivers exactly what we all wanted from the first film.

It also presents a promising shift in direction for what is sure to be an ongoing series that won’t stop at Hundred Acre Wood when it comes to bastardizing our childhood (be sure to stay through the credits for a fun tease of what’s to come).

Ultimately, this is a trashy, fun, good time that’s entertaining as hell and proves there’s more here than a gimmicky cash grab. It may be founded on a stunt concept, but there’s a genuine desire to give horror fans what they want and deserve. It’s not perfect, but the good far outweighs the bad instead of the other way around.

I must commend Rhys Frake-Waterfield for being willing to return to the drawing board and turning an inauspicious start into a franchise worthy of a cult following.

Overall Rating (Out of 5 Butterflies): 3
Though no official release date has been announced following the film’s very limited theatrical run, fans should expect to see the film land on digital sometime in the next couple of months (between April and July).

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