I’m sure the estate of Winnie the Pooh creator A.A. Milne is not happy about it, but this weekend, Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey will open at that proverbial theatre near you. A product of some aspects of the Pooh-verse becoming public domain, the horror movie reimagines the snuggable, honey-lovin’ kid-lit icon as a murderous beast. (It’s not that much of a stretch; he was a freakin’ bear, after all.)
But Pooh isn’t the only treasured childhood character that’s been given the horror movie treatment. Below are a dirty dozen movies that aim right for that soft spot between bedtime stories and childhood nightmare.
Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey (2023)
At the end of The House on Pooh Corner, Christopher Robin explains to his pantless bear friend Pooh that he’s off to school and probably won’t be around the 40.47 ha Woods much anymore. Blood and Honey imagines what happens after, and it’s not pretty. Forced to fend for themselves, Pooh and Piglet turn feral and develop a taste for blood. Young women in bikinis are murdered in unique ways. People scream a lot. You don’t even want to know what they did to Eeyore.
The Banana Splits Movie (2019)
The Banana Splits, a group of mascot-suited hippies or something, hosted a block of Saturday morning cartoons back in the 1970s. Even in their original kid-friendly incarnation, they were creepy and weird. Maybe because you couldn’t figure out exactly what they were doing, or the context in which they existed. They’re supposed to be in a band, I guess, but they mostly just ran around being loud. Anyway, The Banana Splits Movie takes us behind the scenes and leans into the weirdness and horror. Here, Fleegle, Bingo, Drooper, and Snorky are animatronics, robot performers on a kids show, and when the show gets cancelled, they get pissed and murder-y. It’s not a very good movie, but The Banana Splits was not a good show. The theme song is a banger though.
Bambi: Reckoning (Release date to come)
If a movie where Bambi seeks revenge on hunters for his mother’s death sounds like a Saturday Night Live sketch, that’s because it is a Saturday Night Live sketch. It’s also the rough premise of Bambi: Reckoning. The movie’s writer, Rhys Frake-Waterfield, the director of Blood and Honey, describes the movie like this to Dread Central: “The film will be an incredibly dark retelling of the 1928 story we all know and love. Finding inspiration from the design used in Netflix’s The Ritual, Bambi will be a vicious killing machine that lurks in the wilderness. Prepare for Bambi on rabies!”
Arthur: Malediction (2022)
Some people react to kids’ characters turning horrific by pointing out that they’re an affront to the original work, and a perversion of the creator’s vision, but you can’t say that about Arthur, Malédiction. It’s based on characters created by French director Luc Bresson for a series of children’s fantasy novels and movies, and he wrote this horror film, so this is exactly what he intended. Arthur, Malédiction wasn’t released theatrically in the United States. The first animated Arthur movie, 2006’s Arthur and the Invisibles, wasn’t received well here, and the cinematic frission created by having beloved childhood characters turn evil doesn’t work if the characters aren’t beloved to begin with.
The Mean One (2022)
This is almost a movie with the Grinch (who stole Christmas) as the main character. A lot of the movies on this list owe their legal existence to the expiration of copyrights, but The Mean One owes its life to parody laws. You’re allowed to make fun of existing characters, generally, as long as a reasonable person wouldn’t mistake your parody for the real thing. So the main character here is called “The Mean One” and looks grinch-y, but isn’t fully the Grinch. The town is called “Newville,” not “Whoville.” The girl is Cindy Lou You Know Who, etc. Judging from the reviews, those name switches are about as clever as The Mean One gets.
Christmas Evil (1980)
There are so damn many movies in which beloved holiday mascot Santa Claus or someone in a Santa suit is an evil killer. There’s Violent Night. And Silent Night. There’s Silent Night Deadly Night, Santa Claws, To All a Good Night, Silent Night Deadly Night 2, Santa’s Slay — I could go on, believe me. But the best of all these movies, without a doubt, is Christmas Evil. Brandon Maggart (Fiona Apple’s dad!) plays Harry, a creepy dude obsessed with Christmas and Santa. As expected, he puts on a red suit and goes nuts and kills everyone, but it’s the way he goes nuts and kills everyone that make it a great holiday movie. Plus, Christmas Evil has the best ending of any film that has been made in human history.
Rare Exports: a Christmas Tale (2010)
Wait…maybe Rare Exports is the best movie that features Santa Claus killing people. This Norwegian flick is a holiday tradition in my house. It stands above other Christmas horror movies because it’s not about a guy in a suit pretending to be Santa Claus. Here, Santa is all-too-real, unlocked from a primordial ice casket like the monster in John Carpenter’s The Thing. Please watch this movie if you haven’t already: It’s delightful.
Pinocchio’s Revenge (1996)
If you watched 2022’s Pinocchio: a True Story, and thought, “This is the worst version of Pinocchio ever made,” you probably haven’t seen Pinocchio’s Revenge. It’s basically a rip-off of Child’s Play, released in the mid 1990s when movies like Puppet Master and Dolly Dearest were popular on home video. In it, a puppet named Pinocchio is possessed by the spirit of a serial killer — or is it?? The biggest difference between this and its inspiration is that Pinocchio lacks the batshit craziness and well-crafted suspense that makes Child’s Play a classic. Instead, it goes for this weirdly serious tone that is clearly not what you want when you sit down to watch a movie called Pinocchio’s Revenge.
Killer Klowns From Outer Space (1986)
Clowns have become so intertwined with evil for so long, it’s hard to understand how beloved they were by your grandparents back when they were kids. Something changed in the 1980s and clowns went from figures of love and merriment to malicious monsters in the popular mind. Since then, there have been almost as many evil clown movies as evil Santa movies. Killer Klowns was among the first, and it’s still the best. It has that wild, anything-can-happen energy of the best horror comedy, and the makeup and effects look way better than they have any right to look.
Freddy Krueger: Horror Icon Turned Kids’ Character
I’m using Freddy Krueger to represent kinder-horror in reverse, the rare instance when a movie villain designed to terrify children instead makes them fall in love. As portrayed in the first few movies, Freddy is a serial child murderer who revels in torturing his victims to death. But for some unknowable sociological or psychological reason, kids started to really like him. Maybe it’s the hat. Anyway, back in the 1990s, there were cute Freddy Krueger dolls, pillowcases, lunchboxes, and, I’m sure, pogs.
The Curse of Humpty Dumpty (2021)
In the original rhyme, Humpty Dumpty doesn’t actually do anything other than have a great fall, and that leaves a lot of room for a horror adaptation. This one adds a layer of “is it happening or is someone going mad?” tension by featuring a character with early onset dementia. It really makes you wonder whether all the bad things going on are the work of main character Wendy or the incredibly terrifying doll of Humpty Dumpty that seems to be haunted. But for that to be true, the doll would have to magically come to life or something! What a mystery!
Snow White: A Tale of Terror (1997)
The original Snow White fairy tale is scary enough without any additions, but when you lean into the chilling part of the story — poisoning, suspended animation, those dwarves — and add a couple of miscarriages and a twisted parental relationship, you end up with this macabre little TV movie that deconstructs a childhood classic.