Movie Review: “It’s a Wonderful Knife”

   Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays (depending on what you may celebrate) from I hope you receive whatever gift you were wishing for, the holidays didn’t break the bank for you too badly, and that your family doesn’t murder each other when you visit them!

   It’s a Wonderful Knife is a film I hadn’t thought too much about when it was first announced. Obviously, I was by charmed by the delightful pun in its title and I am always welcoming of a new excuse to let me justify watching a horror movie on Christmas, but I wouldn’t necessarily say it was something I was excited for or looking forward to.

   For that reason, I am pleasantly surprised to say that It’s a Wonderful Knife made for a charming and fun film to celebrate the holidays with! (It’s also a gay positive movie that would add some horror spice to a marathon with Happiest Season!) But, how fun and how charming is it?

   It’s a Wonderful Knife was directed by Tyler MacIntyre from a screenplay written by Michael Kennedy. Although neither the writer nor the director has a whole, whole lot to go on, what they have done offers a lot of insight on what to expect from this film. Michael Kennedy previously wrote the screenplay for the film Freaky and Tyler previously directed the film Tragedy Girls. If you have seen either of those films, I think you will likely be able to infer whether this film is right for you. Freaky did that whole riff on Freaky Friday, right? It’s a Wonderful Knife falls into the same subgenre (of a subgenre) as Freaky does, where it takes a familiar or famous trope and adds a horror twist. The film feels right at home in a marathon with Freaky, Totally Killer, and Happy Death Day, with a vibe that is playful, feeling like a tightrope walk between comedy and horror. Likewise, the vibe and general charm of Tragedy Girls adds a slightly unique flavor to it as well. Tyler’s directing and Michael’s writing compliment one another and appear fairly seamless, a real natural combination.

   The actors in It’s a Wonderful Knife are familiar as well, especially for us horror fans. The film sees Justin Long as the antagonist. Although I don’t want to be hyperbolic when I say Long nails his performance in this film – I will say that he delights in this film.

   As you can surmise from the title, It’s a Wonderful Knife riffs on the Christmas classic It’s a Wonderful Life, offering a scenario where our lead protagonist stops a slasher villain from wreaking havoc, but then finds herself with the stigma and controversy surrounding it, as well as the trauma that ensued afterward. In a moment of weakness, she wishes she never existed and the wish is granted. The film shows an alternative reality in which she was never around to stop the murderer and the ripple effect that comes from her absence.

   Justin Long boasts a spray tan and a canny, ridiculous performance that, again, I can’t actually say is a great performance, but will say I was endlessly entertained by. It also adds to the charm that, while Long is now something of a horror maestro (with the Goosebumps television series, his performances in acclaimed horror movies like Barbarian and Drag Me to Hell, and other works like After.Life and Tusk), he is also the exact kind of actor to be in a Christmas movie (he even appeared in AMC+’s Christmas with the Campbell’s film only last year). 

   Cassandra Naud, who hit the seen earlier this year with the decent Shudder horror film Influencerhas a small role in the film, as does Scream Queen Katharine Isabelle (Hannibal, Freddy vs. Jason, Ginger Snaps, and plenty more). Joel McHale has a fairly substantial role in this film as well.

   Jane Widdop helms the film as the main protagonist with Jessica McLeod as their partner in crime (or crime-prevention), so to speak.

   With all the pieces laid out on the board, It’s a Wonderful Knife delivers a modest, but very enjoyable film. Although I don’t always come away with the most glowing reviews for films like Freaky, Totally Killer, or the Happy Death Day movies, I do feel like it is worth acknowledging that I do actively enjoy them. They aren’t heavy-hitters by any stretch, but they are usually fun and delightful films that usually find a way to breathe new life in what’s a very tired slasher subgenre (a subgenre that I love immensely, but admit has many faults).

   They aren’t always a perfect marriage – I usually think they can feel a little overproduced or like they lean too heavily onto the comedy component, underplaying the horror, or not striking that balance that I think would be ideal, but I do get a kick out of them.

   For It’s a Wonderful Life, I don’t know if it hit me at the right time or not, but I found myself a lot more receptive to the film’s sentimentality than I did any of the previous films mentioned. It isn’t something I can exactly put my finger on, but I think it likely has something to do with what I am perceiving as a more thematic cohesion within itself. When the other films felt too saccharine or high-production, or glossy, or like they were trying to preach a certain sentiment, it could feel a little disingenuous or manufactured. The same can be said about It’s a Wonderful Knife, but when it does it, it feels more deliberate, or like it is more tonally-aligned as a parody of a cutesy, squeaky-clean Hallmark Christmas movie. 

   When it tries to be sentimental, it feels sentimental but in a deliberately Christmas movie fashion, and I can’t help but feel like it helped bridge the gap between melodrama and feeling genuinely heartfelt. I felt the film, for lack of a more apt description, thinking, “Oh, well, that was a cute film.” Part of me even feels like this is the film the “classic story but gone horror” subgenre has been waiting for because of how well everything aligns with itself. The high-production cinematography and teenage-comedy meets slasher approach finally feels just right.

   Justin Long delivers as a Christmas villain-esque slasher, who succeeds as being gleefully goofy and yet creepy in an uncanny valley kind of way, and Jane Widdop delivers as a vibrant, likable lead. They manage to thread the needle between being a Christmas Grinch (a justified Christmas Grinch) and a person who has gained a new perspective. Meanwhile, Jessica McLeod offers that Christmas-y sad story turned feel good subplot. 

   It doesn’t offer a whole lot of new traits for the slasher subgenre, and the kills and slasher villain himself aren’t anything we will be writing home about, but I feel they were satiable and even good for what these types of films usually offer horror wise. It kind of swallows its tail a little in the final stretch, becoming a little too complicated and struggling to find a satisfying way to bring its high concept to its resolution, but it manages to survive the landing and smooth things over in its closing moments.

   I would recommend It’s a Wonderful Knife. It has a sweet gooey center, and it manages to capture the spirit of a Christmas movie without shortchanging too much as a horror film – it’s a delightful feather in the cap for everyone involved.

Rating: 3.0 out of 5.0