'It's A Wonderful Knife' review: Slasher riff on Christmas classic isn't that sharp
Courtesy of RLJE Films/Shudder
The start of the holiday season usually comes with an onslaught of new festive themed movies that will inevitably get buried in favor of the traditional classics. One of those classics, “It’s A Wonderful Life” is probably the quintessential holiday movie and it was only a matter of time before someone reimagined it as a gory slasher. Enter “It’s A Wonderful Knife,” which, to be fair isn’t a bad title, a low-key riff on Frank Capra’s 1946 gem where a town modeled after Bedford Falls see’s a masked killer slaughtering unsuspecting victims with everything from a giant light up candy cane to an ax. It’s a clever premise, sure, but after the opening scene, “It’s A Wonderful Knife” can’t sustain any momentum and despite a goofy, ham-fisted performance from the always reliable Justin Long (who, between this, “Barbarian,” and “Goosebumps” clearly enjoys playing weirdos) there’s not much here worth writing to Santa about.
Shot as though it was a low-fi Hallmark Christmas movie, “It’s A Wonderful Knife,” takes place in Angel Falls where mayor Henry Waters (Long) wants to seize a good chunk of the community’s land and build shopping centers and condos. But when he encounters an old traditionalist who isn’t willing to forgo his homestead for the cause, it sends Henry on a bloody, knife-wielding rampage. He’s killed by a local teenager named Winnie (Jane Widdop), but a jump one year into the future reveals time hasn’t healed her wounds and the scars from the Christmas eve massacre remain fresh. Everyone else (including her annoying father played by Joel McHale) seems to have moved on and suggest she do the same, because who needs empathy!
That night, seeing the Northern Lights, Winnie makes a wish that she was never born and is instantly transported to an alternate Angel Falls where Henry Waters is still on the loose, having amassed a body count upwards of 26 souls. She finds assistance with Bernie (Jess McLeod) who both team up to try and stop the killing spree in the hopes of course correcting the intersecting timelines. Here, writer Michael Kennedy and director Tyler MacIntrye play with several troupes and get really close to making a statement on class warfare (the character of Henry Waters, if explored more in depth, might have landed the plane) but alas, “It’s A Wonderful Knife” was built off the name without considering what the narrative might look like besides a few decent killings (the aforementioned candy cane impalement did not disappoint).
Juggling comedy with horror, “It’s A Wonderful Knife” is neither a successful satire of the movie it’s knocking off nor a very entertaining slasher. At least Long is having the time of his life, sporting an orange tan and pearly white teeth implants. He feels like a Saturday Night Live character more than anything, and therein lies where the movie goes off the rails. Had it leaned more into that “Scooby-Doo” energy, perhaps the final result may have been more fulfilling, but as it stands, “It’s A Wonderful Knife” goes on the naughty list.
IT’S A WONDERFUL KNIFE opens in theaters Friday, November 10th.