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Oh, bother: Winnie-the-Pooh and Peter Pan are both getting the horror treatment

Winnie-the-Pooh (Alamy Stock Photo)
Winnie-the-Pooh (Alamy Stock Photo)

The bumbling and affable Winnie-the-Pooh is not exactly what you’d call a natural horror movie protagonist; nor is the-boy-who-never-wants-to-grow-up, Peter Pan.

Thought you were safe from two beloved childhood figures undergoing a terrifying transformation? Think again: now two horror films starring the treasured characters are in the works, and their titles have been revealed. Get braced for Winnie the Pooh: Death House, and Peter Pan Goes to Hell.

The news of the upcoming releases was shared this week at the Cannes film market, one of the biggest annual gatherings of film industry professionals. They’re the result of a collaboration between German distributor Dolphin Medien and British production house Red Shadow Studios.

Winnie the Pooh: Death House will tell the story of a school reunion that has been organised by members of a cult who are out for revenge. Filming is underway, Adam Stephen Kelly – the writer behind 2014 horror-drama Done In – is writing the script, while filmmaker S.J. Evans (Dead of the Nite) is attached as director.

“The script is supremely clever with scope for iconic visuals, and we have assembled a terrific young cast loaded with star potential,” said Evans. “I’m very excited to share this dark and disturbing horror with the world.”

According to Variety, Peter Pan Goes to Hell will be a slasher film with notes of both Hitchcock’s Psycho and Romano Scavolini’s 1981 graphic horror Nightmares in a Damaged Brain. Kelly is also set to write the script of the Peter Pan reimagining, while Phil Claydon, the director of the provocative 2009 film Lesbian Vampire Killers, is set to direct.

“Let the mayhem commence,” said Claydon.

Both Peter Pan and Winnie-the-Pooh are now in the public domain in the US, which essentially means that new work can be created, published and distributed using the characters. Winnie-the-Pooh entered the public domain only last year as part of a major expiration of copyrights, after the regulated 95-year period of US copyright covering the works ended.

Other works whose copyright also expired on January 1, 2022 include Franz Kafka’s The Castle, Felix Salten’s original novel Bambi, a Life in the Woods, and works from Dorothy Parker.

It explains why the upcoming film is not the first time that dear old Pooh has become an object of terror in only a few years: the ted icon became a murderous, axe-wielding psychopath who persecuted Christopher Robin and his friends in Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey, which was released last year. The film was a major Box Office success, making $5.2 million on a budget of $100,000.

“The huge interest in horror movies based on public domain properties piqued my interest as it did many,” said Kelly. “I’m trying to bring together really talented filmmakers and high-caliber actors as I firmly believe that, in this space, budget doesn’t have to mean compromising on talent or creativity.”

The director also described the two upcoming films as “absolutely out there gonzo takes on beloved children’s stories”.

But the maiming of your childhood memories doesn’t stop there: there’s also a new horror film featuring Cinderella in the works. According to horror site Bloody Disgusting, the film will be titled Cinderella’s Curse, and will be directed by Louisa Warren, who also made 2022 horror films Cannibal Cabin and Tooth Fairy Queen of Pain.

“This is an incredibly unique spin on the Cinderella we all love and know. There are going to be some truly horrific deaths by her hands,” said Warren to Bloody Disgusting. “I think the gore-hounds are in for a treat in my dark retelling.”

Cinderella has already been reimagined by several authors, including Peter Pan writer J.M. Barrie who wrote 1916 play A Kiss for Cinderella. The story of Cinderella can be traced back as far as 7 BCE, and hundreds – if not thousands – of iterations of the story exist in cultures all over the world. Disney’s 1950 cartoon film version of Cinderella was based on French author Charles Perrault’s 1697 novel, Cendrillon.