- Director: Tyler McIntyre
- Writer: Michael Kennedy
- Stars: Jane Widdop, Jess McLeod, Joel McHale, Justin Long
Christmas horror movies are as much a holiday tradition as egg nog and mistletoe. Recently, horror has seen a trend of taking a beloved film, tweaking it to make a young, blonde girl the protagonist and then adding a slasher element (i.e.) Happy Death Day, Totally Killer and Freaky. Writer Michael Kennedy (Freaky) and director Tyler McIntyre (Tragedy Girls) have decided to try their hand with tweaking the beloved Frank Capra/James Stewart classic, It’s a Wonderful Life.
It’s A Wonderful Knife is exactly what it sounds like: a straight up slasher film that shows an emotionally down and out person what the world would be like if they had never been born. In lieu of George Bailey, we have Winnie Carruthers (Jane Widdop), a delightfully sunny, blonde high school student with college dreams and a penchant for using a vintage camera without a flash. Winnie’s dad, David (Joel McHale), is the right-hand man for town jerk-face, Henry Waters. Henry (Justin Long) is eerily similar to Biff in Back to the Future 2, but with a spray tan and a better wig. He fancies himself much more important and powerful than he is and has his sights set on building a huge shopping center in Angel Falls. Of course, someone is in his way and that’s what sets all events in motion, both in this timeline and the one in which Winnie no longer exists.
It’s A Wonderful Knife follows the familiar slasher guideline while mixing nicely with the kind of Christmas cheesiness that makes you feel warm and cozy. Even the slasher, the Angel Killer, fits in perfectly with all of the snow and Christmas lights. Our introduction to the Angel Killer is fun and energetic and there is a really cool kill with flashing lights that makes for an inventive and bloody demise for one of the many townsfolk. In the Winnie-free timeline, the Angel Killer is an accepted menace who has turned Angel Falls into a town of drunks and meth heads, so only Winnie and the token “weird” girl can stop them. As with any good slasher, it’s fun to watch the filmmaking team come up with ways to dispose of the various high school students, but the fact that the Angel’s pristine white robes never get a drop of blood on them does become a bit distracting.
While the town of Angel Falls is just as idyllic as any town in a Christmas film should be, it is also nicely populated by all kinds of people. But only one of them has a hard to place southern drawl and that’s Henry. Long is a reliable comedic actor and, one could argue, a Scream King in his own right which is why his choice to play Henry as a man auditioning to be a part of The Righteous Gemstones is perplexing at best and takes you out of the comedy in its worst moments. Strangely, McHale has come with one of his most contained performances since… ever, and that just makes Long’s choices more confounding. He does make for an awesome villain, though, because you just want to punch that smarmy southern accent out of him.
Outside of the dual timeline gag, It’s A Wonderful Knife certainly doesn’t reinvent the wheel, nor does it successfully create any real dread, suspense or mystery. With McIntyre and Kennedy’s resumes, it’s easy to expect more than what we are given. At times, the film feels a bit like a project that was, perhaps, rushed to completion in an effort to be a part of the yuletide season, which is unfortunate because even with Long’s peculiar accent, all of the characters are likable enough and all of the actors are perfectly suited for their roles. Balancing winking moments of holiday goodness and comedy with an icy killer, It’s A Wonderful Knife is a solid entry into the Christmas horror genre, but I do wish it had as much heart as the classic film that it tries to honor.
It’s A Wonderful Knife is only in cinemas November 10.