Thursday, March 23, 2023

Hundred Aching Woods: Winnie The Pooh: Blood and Honey (2023)

Winnie The Pooh: Blood and Honey (United Kingdom, 2023)
Rating: *1/2
Starring: Nikolai Leon, Maria Taylor, Craig David Dowsett

With Winnie the Pooh characters becoming public domain around January of 2022, it's almost inevitable that we would see a horror spin to the beloved stuffed bear and his human bestfriend Christopher Robin, though I would have expected something a tad more inventive than this.

In an animated opening, Blood and Honey tells the tale of a young Christopher Robin who, some time ago, stumbled across five creatures deep in a forest called the Hundred Acre Woods, all of them half human, half animal abominations. The boy befriended the creatures, visiting them over the years bringing food and playing games, until the time comes that Christopher grew up to be a young man with aspirations to become a doctor. Thinking his crossbreed friends can fend for themselves in the woods, Robin leaves to go to college, not knowing that the creatures have gotten so used to him providing for them that they didn't know what to do once food becomes scarce in the Hundred Acre Woods. Starving to death, the animals made the traumatic decision to eat one of them, a heinous act that broke them into swearing bloody vengeance upon humans, especially the one who abandoned them.

Moving forward five years later, Christopher Robin returns to the woods, hoping to introduce his new wife Mary to his animal friends. Instead of a warm welcome, he finds the Hundred Acre Woods devoid of joy and the once jolly and silly pig named Piglet and bear named Winnie The Pooh are now deformed into grotesque mutant killers with an insatiable bloodlust. The mutants murder Christopher's wife and capture him to punish and torture.

And with that, we now set our attention to a group of girls visiting a cabin nearby Pooh and Piglet's stomping grounds and, honestly, this is when the film flopped down the road and hit every overused jagged rock the further it goes as we're practically treated with the barest of bare bone slasher treatment a low budget production can make. Girls got the attention of the two freaks. Freaks start stalking the cabin. Girls freak out and get hunted down. Climactic showdown. All of this could have been an enjoyable, cheeky ride of blood and guts but, in a lack of better terms, Blood and Honey decided to be a mostly straightforward slasher. And I'm putting great emphasis on straightforward

Taking away the gimmick that the two killers here are slasherfied beloved characters from English author A. A. Milne's children's books, there really is nothing else that the movie offers here except the same old backwoods hack and slash we've seen a hundred times before. Sure, Piglet is a boar now for some reason and Pooh Bear has that one scene where he summons a swarm of bees to stung one fella to death, but apart from that, these freaks could have been easily replaced by any other masked psychos and the story would practically remain the same. It also doesn't help that the characters are lackluster at their best and boring at their worst, with the main girl basically the only one with some bit of depth as it is revealed she's doing this outing to get over a horrifying stalking experience. To be fair, the acting is fine and all, but if the characters involved failed to stand out from your usual nerdy girl and social media obsessive types, it ain't doing the film that big of a favor.

Then there's the matter of tone which is, personally, the film's biggest drawback; you would expect that a horror Winnie The Pooh movie would try to at least squeeze in some satire at how ridiculous the story sounds, maybe throw in a joke or two at it even, but instead the film tries too hard to be a serious slasher with dramatics involving abandonment and trauma, clashing greatly and sucking the fun out of the silliness of killer animal mutants with exaggeratedly cartoonish evil faces murdering paperthin characters in gruesome ways. (Well, as gruesome as the budget allows it) 

On a technical level, Blood and Honey has an undeniable air of cheapness when the supposed mutant man-animals are obviously men in silicone masks, but at least it's easy on the eyes save for a dodgy editing or two. At the end of it all, the movie is a wasted opportunity and though I appreciate director, writer and editor Rhys Frake-Waterfield doing all of this effort to make horror Pooh Bear work, the lack of energy, excitement and maybe a tad more twisted creativity simply leaves an uninspired taste in my mouth the moment the ending credits roll. Oh, bother, don't bother.

1 female strangled with a length of chain, neck crushed
1 female repeatedly beaten, shredded through a woodchipper
1 female had her head crushed with a car
1 female brained with a sledgehammer
1 female mauled to death
1 male beaten to death with a sledgehammer
1 female stabbed through the mouth with a machete
1 male had his face clawed off
1 male stomped on the head
1 male had his throat clawed
1 male stung to death by bees
1 female decapitated
1 female had her throat cut with a knife
Total: 13

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Madmen and Mexican Mushroom Cupcakes: The Mansion (2017)

The Mansion (Le Manoir) (France, 2017)
Rating: **
Starring: Marc Jarousseau, Nathalie Odzierejko and Ludovik

Knowing that this could be the last time their group will ever get together as college comes to a close, Nadine and her boyfriend Fabrice plans to host a New Year's Eve party at a rented Belgian mansion themed to the year 2000. Their guests include licentious Samantha and her very agitated ex Stephane as well as her young bookish cousin Charlotte, aspiring actor Djamal, wimpy Bruno, assertive gal Jess and goggle-wearing stoner Drazic. (The classic slasher stereotypes~)

For most parts, everything seems alright with the gang socializing with one another due to the mansion's lack of cell service and, once the festivities begin, everyone there is simply having a ball dancing, drinking and gorging on mushroom-laced cupcakes. But then Charlotte disappears into the woods, Nadine's dog "Kitty" is found decapitated and Djamal is found dead and hung. (Figuratively and literally) It's soon clear to our gang that someone wants them dead and it all may or may not have something to do with the mansion's former owner Baron Gluckenstein Muller, Satanic rituals and missing children.

As a production, The Mansion (2017) has a competent look when it comes to the gothic backdrop, with lighting, cinematography and set design working altogether to give us a slick-looking yet atmospheric terror mansion and a decent deal of creative editing came handy when giving the place an intimidating and ghoulish feel whenever a scene calls for it, resulting to a lot of chilling visuals fit for an old dark house story. 

It does take a while before anything remotely interesting happens, however, with the gang spending twenty-some minutes after an opening kill practically feeding us one exposition to the next of either what their whole deal is or what's troubling them. With The Mansion (2017) being a horror comedy and all, the focus of these dialogues (and the movies general direction for that matter) is to make us laugh and the brand of comedy presented here juggles mostly within the sleazy and juvenile. That said, if we're not engaged in conversation concerning the weirdest place to have sex in or the troubles of having a large manhood, we could be treated with jokes about getting high and talking to imaginary warthogs or how an unfortunate fella steps on dog shit before finding said dog's severed head. It's a gaggle of funnies I'm sure would cater to some, but I personally just find most of it dull and overused, with only a scant few that honestly got a genuine chuckle out of me.

As a slasher, The Mansion (2017) has its share of straightforward killings, though half and half of the rest of the slayings do lean to the brand of tired humor this film runs on, with one example being a fellow who, as a dying wish, have two of his female friends act out erotic roleplays while he jerked himself to death. It's a mixing of gore and gags that can be a real hassle to go through as they really try their hardest to sell the punchline for these kills, often overstaying their welcome before finally moving ahead to the next scene. Thankfully, though, the last act appears to have found a good balance on humor and horror as not only do we get some nasty deaths, but the twist reveal and the motive behind the murders came with some laughably fun visual gags and hilariously awesome deaths involving hallucinogenic overdose and cobra venom.

All in all, The Mansion (2017) is pretty staple example of a slasher comedy. It has the blueprints of a workable bonkers bodycounter, though the type of humor they went with is a real divisive brand. If you would like to go past beyond jokes involving masturbation, infidelity and animal feces, then you could do better, but for anybody else with a funny bone for this kind of stuff, more power to you lot, then, and I hope you'll enjoy this somehow.

1 female dragged away, killed
1 male murdered offscreen, later seen hung by the groin
1 male had his legs chopped off with an animal trap, succumbs to his wounds
1 female had her neck crushed with a rolling pin
1 male had his throat cut with a knife
1 male seen taxidermized
1 male seen taxidermized
1 male seen taxidermized
3 female heads seen taxidermized
1 female ran through with a pitchfork
1 female set ablaze
1 male swallows a poison dart frog, poisoned
1 male succumbs to cobra venom 
Total: 15