It’s a Wonderful Knife is a campy Christmas-themed horror slasher that embraces its lighthearted approach while offering abundant entertainment.
Director Tyler MacIntyre (Tragedy Girls) returns to the big screen with a festive feature full of fun. Written by Michael Kennedy, It’s a Wonderful Knife blends horror and holiday cheer, presenting a Christmas comedy slasher that genre enthusiasts can embrace this holiday season. Think Happy Death Day meets Black Christmas. The film stars genre veteran Justin Long alongside Joel McHale (Community) and rising star Jane Widdop.
It’s Christmas in the quaint town of Angel Falls, where the residents gather for their annual Christmas Tree Lighting. The event is hosted by the town’s less-than-loveable Mayor, Henry Waters (Long), who wishes to transform the community into an entertainment hub filled with restaurants and shops. However, some members of the community are unimpressed by his development strategy. Later that night, Winnie (Widdop) is enjoying the evening out with friends when they witness a terrifying killer disguised as an angel murdering one of the town’s citizens. In a sudden twist of fate, Winnie kills the murderous angel. Fast forward one year, and she still remains haunted by the experience, battling an overwhelming sense of isolation while wishing to erase her existence. Shockingly, her wish becomes a reality, and she finds herself in an alternate dimension of Angel Falls where nobody knows who she is. Adding to the dilemma is the fact that in this new reality, the killer is very much alive and well.
Long, as Mayor Waters, is the film’s standout, providing impeccable comedic timing and a pompous persona that will get under the audience’s skin. It’s refreshing to see the Barbarian alumni embracing another villainous role in the horror genre so effortlessly, unlike his usual portrayal of a likable protagonist, which he’s embodied many times before. Conversely, Widdop balances the scales with Winnie, reflecting a compassionate, intelligent young woman who values her community and firmly commits to being the town’s savior when the residents need it the most. Winnie’s father, David, is a much more understated character, yet McHale still provides an enjoyable performance. In addition, Bernie (Jess McLeod) introduces a sense of vulnerability to the film and offers a comforting presence alongside the leading lady.
Despite the early reveal of the killer’s identity in the story, It’s a Wonderful Knife still manages to hold the audience’s interest. Viewers remain engaged as they ponder whether the monstrous angel will be caught, the motives of the man behind the mask, and how Winnie will break free from her new life as a stranger to the town’s inhabitants and return to her former life of normalcy.
While It’s a Wonderful Knife has its fair share of bloody moments, the violence is relatively tame, and the film maintains a sense of humor throughout. That’s not to say there aren’t some tension-filled scenes as the hooded angel killer approaches, though they’re mixed with a playful, campy vibe. The film also incorporates a sentimental subplot between Winnie and Bernie, as the two, both plagued by loneliness, seek refuge in one another and develop a surprising, heartfelt connection. That said, the feature never strays too far from its lighthearted tone.
One particular sequence in It’s a Wonderful Knife is bound to be a favorite among slasher fans. It deserves recognition for its effective use of flickering lighting and choppy camera angles to build suspense, crafting a memorable kill scene set to a superb rendition of Carol of the Bells, all while the larger-than-life masked killer makes a lasting character impression. Praise must also be given to the set design, which captures the essence of Christmas while the story playfully riffs on its narrative reflected through the town’s name and the killer’s festive costume. The villain’s mask design is simplistic, but it fits seamlessly with the movie’s tone and Christmas setting.
Once the third act arrives, the pacing feels rushed, and the killer’s demise feels somewhat underwhelming. That said, the film’s emotional subplot is adequately resolved, finishing on an uplifting note. Although It’s a Wonderful Knife doesn’t break new ground and lacks originality, this approach feels intentional, and it doesn’t attempt to conceal that fact. Instead, the runtime provides viewers with an amusing Christmas slasher that’s all about delivering entertainment, which it achieves all too well.
It’s a Wonderful Knife will be released in US theaters on November 10, 2023.