Interview – ‘Winnie The Pooh: Blood and Honey 2’ filmmakers discuss how the fans helped shape this horror sequel

Deep within the 100-Acre Wood, a destructive rage grows as Winnie-the-Pooh, Piglet, Owl and Tigger find their home and their lives endangered after Christopher Robin revealed their existence. Not wanting to live in the shadows any longer, the group decides to take the fight to the town of Ashdown, home of Christopher Robin, leaving a bloody trail of death and mayhem in the wake. Winnie and his savage friends will show everyone that they are deadlier, stronger, and smarter than anyone could ever imagine and get their revenge of Christopher Robin, once and for all.

The sequel to last year’s viral horror hit, WINNIE THE POOH: BLOOD AND HONEY 2 is releasing in select cinemas nationally from March 28. Returning director Rhys Frake-Waterfield promises a bigger, better, and bloodier spectacle to the first film, which grossed $10 million worldwide. With 10 times the budget of the original film, audiences can expect an explosive and gore-filled sequel that will shock even the boldest horror fans.

Leading up to the film’s release, Nick L’Barrow spoke with director Rhys Frake-Waterfield and producer/star Scott Chambers about creating “popcorn horror”, their favourite horror villains, and how help from the fans shaped the plot for the sequel.

Nick: I want to thank you both for settling a long-lasting debate in my household about how the dishwasher should be stacked. I’ve forever been a handles-up dishwasher stacker, and this film just solidified that for me! So, thank you for that!

Rhys Frake-Waterfield: [laughs]

Scott Chambers: [laughs], Oh, I’m glad you liked that!

Nick: Which brings me to the wide variety of kills you showcase in this film – because there are many! I’m curious about the creative process of what kill is going into what scene? Do you just have a giant list of horrific ways to kill people, and then you sprinkle them into the story? Or does every kill need to be in service of the scene it’s in?

Rhys Frake-Waterfield: So, there’s a big variety of death scenes, and some of them had to be fairly well pre-planned. Like, for example, the dishwasher one you were talking about. You can see there’s prosthetic makeup. It’s all practical when she gets pulled back and you see all the knives stuck in her face. And it looks really, really horrible! So, that one was planned out months and months before.

But a lot of the other one, you know, say with Tigger for example, a lot of it was actually worked on the day. There was a clip released recently where a girl gets her eyes gouged out, and then she’s going towards this hole. We didn’t know that hole was there until we got to the location. And when I got to the location, and saw the little latch, I was like, this would be a nice addition because now she basically blind and she’s going towards it.

Some of these kills vary based on the personality of the character. We’ve got four villains in this essentially, whereas most films have one. Each of the villains like to kill people in different ways. Pooh, he’s just like Jason or Michael Myers, and he just wants cut up people, knock off their head instantly and then just carry on!

Tigger, there’s more of a sadistic side to him. So, a lot of his kills are kind of orchestrated around him, you know, slicing people, watching them scream out in pain, and luring them towards a hole to fall into [laughs].

Owl likes to monologue and some of his kills are thematically linked to what his kind of character is. So, with owls and birds, they like to regurgitate their food, so that plays into his “death” thing. We thought it’d be really nice if regurgitates rather than doing the same thing, like slashing the throat or something. We tried to link it to an element of their character.

Nick: As a producer, Scott, what goes through your mind when these kills are presented to you? Do you ever sit back and go, “Are we actually going to be able to pull this off?”

Scott Chambers: We just brainstormed all the time. We are brainstorming deaths always, and we get super creative! You’ve got kind of the basics in the script, and you always know you’re going to try and outdo that on the day. A big thing with us is that we can’t always afford location scouts. So, we kind of just go there on the day we’re filming, and the pair of us just find stuff.

One thing that I saw was in the Tigger massacre sequence, and I was actually doing costumes, and there was a girl I did the costume for, and I put around her neck, like, a dog lead. And I thought you could grab the dog lead and she’d go flying or gets pulled down. Then we saw these grates, and I get inspired by other films, so I thought of Paris Hilton in House of Wax, where she’s on the grates and a knife goes through her foot. So, that dog lead falls through the grates and he [Tigger] grabs it so she can’t get up.

At one point, I was developing a Steamboat Willie film, and then ended up stopping development on that because when you actually look into the legalities of that, it’s not wise to do that! Basically, I was going to be directing it, and I always had a thing about the dishwasher! So, I’m glad you like that, because I remember it was a flatmate I used to live with and they used to put the points up, and it always made me [slice my finger]. Imagine having your eye hit that!

Nick: Well, it’s brutal in the film, and I think a lot of that is the use of practical effects, prosthetics, and blood. What were the discussions and decisions around going as practical as possible with this film?

Rhys Frake-Waterfield: Yeah, moving on from like the first film to the second film, having really solid death scenes and horror practical effects and gore, that’s very important to a lot of horror fans. And ultimately, what this film is, is to entertain the horror audience. So, it was an area we knew we had to massively step up.

We got a company in called The Prosthetics Studio, and they’ve worked on really big stuff. They did Voldemort for Harry Potter. Red Skull for Captain America. They’re a very, very established company and they were also charged with the character redesigns, which was also important because we wanted prosthetics rather than a singular piece for the masks.

And it wasn’t really budget constraints which made us go down the practical route. It was intentional because we we’re trying to avoid relying on CGI, as much as we can. Even though it’s easier, like on the day, to have someone swing an axe and then have CGI cut in and have all the blood come out. There’s no mess and it probably costs you 500 pounds to get it done and just move on. We’re actually putting ourselves out of pocket by trying to keep towards the practical route. But hopefully that pays off because we think that’s what a lot of horror fans do want.

Nick: I think horror fans will really appreciate the prosthetics in this movie! There’s actually a shot that highlights what you were saying about the masks. And it’s just a simple shot of Pooh’s eye when we first see him, and that makeup, the lighting, and the way his pupil dilates made me think about iconic horror villain reveal shots. So, I’m curious to know what some of your favourite iconic villain shots are?

Scott Chambers: Oh my god, that’s a really good question.

Rhys Frake-Waterfield: I love Freddy Kruger. I love the big moments from him. In Freddy vs. Jason, the opening of that is very similar to what I was doing with Pooh there. Lots of tight shots of his eyes, his mouth and it looks really disgusting and scary, and like cold. That’s what I wanted to do with Pooh, and those close ups gave that sort of effect. And making sure all the prosthetics there are looking really good, in order to get the eyes dilating.

That was all intentional, as well. We had him shut his eyes for 30 seconds on the day, and then we would countdown, he’d open his eyes and we’d get that really cool shot.

Those opening shots in Freddy vs. Jason, I love. I love a lot of Freddy’s one liner too!

Scott Chambers: Mine would actually be Evil Dead Rise. One of my favourite shots is through the peephole, and you can just see her, and she’s smiling all creepy. And she’s like, “Open the door for me now!” As soon as you asked that, that’s what came to my mind!

Nick: I want to chat about how Christopher Robin’s story being fleshed out more in this film. Christopher Robin is dealing with a lot of childhood trauma, and how that affects the events of this film. How important is it to you both to make sure there is a grounded human story in the midst of all the blood, gore, and carnage?

Rhys Frake-Waterfield: Yeah, it was really important because going back to when the first film was released, we were making a lot of films that year, and our expectation was that it wasn’t going to be a theatrical film. It was a VOD or DVD release. So, when it released, there was a lot of criticism about certain areas.

And I got a writer on board called Matthew Leslie, who wrote Summer of ’84. But, for me and him, it was really important to like, address all of these areas people criticized. So, one of the first steps was to go through all the message boards, go through like Instagram, and do polls to find out what the fans wanted, rather than having the approach of just execs in a dark room talking about what they think it should be. We got all the fans really involved and got there lists of desires for the sequel.

Then, me and Matt sat down and thought about how we can change this and integrate all of these elements, and then that eventually led us to the decision of altering the story so much, taking the kind of approach similar to The Town That Dreaded Sundown or Scream, and making the first film be a film within this film. Essentially it wipes the slate clean. Nothing needs to be brought over and we can kind of pick and choose the bits which made sense.

Everything was now available to us. We could redesign the creatures, recast where it was necessary, and introduce the story and change the story to fit what we thought was best. We thought it was really important to integrate that kind of story for Christopher Robin. First of all, to make him the main protagonist, which I think every would be able to agree is the logical decision, with this based on the original books. And then for him, it was about what we do with his story.

Did something happen to him prior to this film? There was a terrible massacre, and where would Christopher Robin go from there? We gave him this, sort of, traumatic arc where he’s trying to get over what happened. Similar to characters like Laurie Strode, for example. That was super important having that arc for that character in there.

Nick: What about for yourself Scott? From a performance point of view, is it just as important to have this character substance and story to sink into?

Scott Chambers: Yeah, it was really nice because with what’s going on, you need to use so much imagination where the mystery leads. As an actor, Christopher Robin’s story is such a wild thing to believe in! But you have to allow yourself to believe. So it’s really nice to have these sort of challenges.

One big thing that I didn’t do was… I love films where characters explore trauma, but I don’t like it when the character is down and out the whole time. I find it quite hard to watch, and because this film is very much ‘popcorn horror’, you know? We’re not making an A24 film here! It’s the complete opposite! Have fun, go for the ride, and all that.

I wanted him to be likeable. I tried to bring some vulnerability, and just try and smile where possible. Because he starts in a place where he’s uncertain about where his life is going to progress to, who he can and can’t trust, and all these kinds of things. I was to keep that flame going. There’s hope. He’s trying to be positive, but everyone else around him is pulling him down.

Nick: Unfortunately, we’re out of time! This flew by and I have so many more questions. But I do want to finish by saying – if you do a Poohniverse world tour, make sure you bring it to Australia and we can chat about it person!

Rhys Frake-Waterfield: Oh, yes! Thank you very much!

Scott Chambers: Thank you! Thank you! It’s been great talking to you.

Thank you to Rhys and Scott for their time, and to Umbrella Entertainment and NixCo PR for organising the interview! Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey 2 is in cinemas for a limited time from March 28 – April 1.

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Nick L'Barrow
Nick L'Barrow
Nick is a Brisbane-based film/TV reviewer. He gained his following starting with his 60 second video reviews of all the latest releases on Instagram (@nicksflicksfix), before launching a monthly podcast with Peter Gray called Monthly Movie Marathon. Nick contributes to Novastream with interviews and reviews for the latest blockbusters.

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