What are some of the films that scared you as a kid? For me, it began in the 1980s with Return to Oz – the moment Princess Mombi’s collection of heads, neatly displayed behind glass in the cabinet of my nightmares, awoke and began screaming.
Then, there was Stephen King’s It, which I first read as an early teen, and later watched (and will forever wish I hadn’t). My brother and I still fear Pennywise the clown – to the extent that it’s become a longstanding family joke; my dad liking to blindside us on the “Richards Core” WhatsApp group with the words, “they float, they all float” when we least expect him to.
Later, it was The Blair Witch Project when I went to university and watched it on campus in Cardiff with my housemates, before walking through the woods “as a laugh” on the way home (I still shudder when I recall that final scene).
There is plenty to scare you when you’re young – and old, of course: I couldn’t walk upstairs by myself after watching Get Out – but in all of my memories of growing up, there was one constant “safe space”: Winnie-the-Pooh. Well, not anymore.
Nope – the news we didn’t know we didn’t want has been made manifest; the disruption to a halcyon era of (half-imagined) innocence. In many ways, it is, truly, the end of days; for Winnie-the-Pooh has now been transformed into a horror film.
Winnie-the-Pooh: Blood and Honey, to be precise – a reimagining of A A Milne’s children’s classic tales of teddy bear Pooh and his “real boy” best friend, Christopher Robin. I read the original books, I now read them to my children: the beauty of Pooh (once you’ve gotten over the sniggers about his actual name) is in its naivety. Only now, Pooh is very, very different. According to this review, he is “a hideous sentient pig-man who appears to be sexually aroused by graphic violence”. OK, then.
In the latest trailer for the movie, which is slated for release on DVD and VOD worldwide soon (there is no exact date at the moment), Christopher Robin (Nikolai Leon) returns to the Hundred Acre Woods to reunite with his “friends” Pooh, Piglet, and Eeyore. But their pain at being abandoned for so many years has turned them savage – and thirsty for blood.
In various cut scenes, we see a message written in blood on a cabin window warning a group of girls to “get out”, Pooh hitting a girl in the head with a sledgehammer and taking her eye out and blood streaming down someone’s face. There are victims lounging in jacuzzis and a woman beheaded in a swimming pool. After going on the rampage, Pooh and friends – in horrible, The Wicker Man-reminiscent animal masks – stuff themselves with honey.
It’s truly horrifying – but oh, how resonant, how utterly fitting it feels for 2022! The world is burning – so of course we now have one of our most beloved and gentle fictional heroes turned into a sadistic, bloodthirsty killer. Of course we do!
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After all, we’re living out a real-time horror story, right here: with millions preparing for a long, cold winter, a European war still raging, thousands starving and apocalyptic weather events taking lives across the globe.
Closer to home we are already seeing the effects of the cost of living crisis, dire warnings over our energy bills “price cap”, spiralling inflation, mumurings of an early winter flu crisis (as well as the return of polio in some London boroughs, including mine), the continuation of Covid, fresh waves of widespread industrial action – and that’s before we even start to mention the human waste in our sea water and a Tory leadership race in disarray. We’ve even started to see advice to switch the tasks of our daily living away from home and into the office, simply to be able to cope with costs.
So, while it feels mean – or wrong, somehow – to see our national treasures (both Christopher Robin and Pooh have earned that moniker, as has their creator, A A Milne) bastardised and twisted, reduced to base caricatures of themselves with a sick twist; as we mourn our childhood heroes “gone bad” – that’s where we are, now. That’s the world we’re living in. We better get used to it.
Can’t wait to see what they do to Mickey Mouse, Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner.