For his first two features, writer Michael Kennedy has used essentially the same strategy. He takes an iconic movie plot and asks, but what if it was a slasher? There’s 2020’s Freaky Friday riff, Freaky, and now he teams up with Tragedy Girls director Tyler MacIntyre for It’s a Wonderful Knife. You can probably discern the premise from the title. The result plays something like an unapologetically queer Hallmark Christmas movie covered in blood and stab wounds. Which is as much damn fun as it sounds.
Sure, Angel Falls may look like an idyllic, Norman Rockwell-wet-dream small town, though the veneer hides less savory facets of life. Also, there’s a masked killer on the loose. After saving the town and her friends from said psycho, you’d think Winnie Carruthers (Jane Widdop) might become a local hero. Instead, life takes a big old dump on her and she wishes she’d never been born. Via some gentle movie magic, her wish comes true, and she finds herself in a version of reality where everyone is so much worse off. The town has devolved into a meth-addled hellhole where dreams go to die, chiefly because the murderer is still on the loose and picking off the citizenry.
It's a Wonderful Knife never veers far from the formula, plot wise, which can be a mixed bag. There are moments where rigid adherence to the schedule bogs things down, but others when it breaks from convention and tweaks the pattern in fun, creative ways. For example, Winnie’s family devolves in hilarious ways, especially her mom (Erin Boyes) and aunt (Katharine Isabelle), and a burgeoning relationship with town pariah Bernie (Jess McLeod), aka Weirdo, carries the bulk of the emotional oomph of the picture. In these deviations where the movie finds itself and comes into its own without having to rely on the framework of a beloved cinematic institution.
Widdop does a nice job carrying the bulk of the film. She delves into Winnie’s frustration with the small-town mentality that surrounds her and growing up where everyone is all up in your business, and ultimately the gamut of fear, regret, despair, and everything that comes with being forgotten by the world. And she does occasionally battle a killer who looks like a Christmas decoration come to life with ill intent. That’ll cause some angst.
Joel McHale pops up as Winnie’s father, and he’s fine, though the character is so tepid milquetoast their relationship doesn’t leave much of an impression. Isabelle has a fine time as the jaded, sardonic member of the family who offers an outside perspective on the drama while she definitely feels like she’s experienced much of what Winnie goes through. Boyes manages to be both tragic and hilarious. But it’s really Justin Long who stands out of the crowd as the conniving mayor. He is absolutely on one as a scheming small-time wannabe power-broker—imagine a scene-chewing Jimmy Stewart as a vindictive con artist bent on swindling his constituents and you start to get an idea of what he brings to the table.
It's a Wonderful Knife delivers precisely what the concept promises. While at times the conceit hems the film in—as gleeful as it often is, there aren’t a ton of surprises—the enthusiastic execution mostly makes up for any overly familiar beats. Fun and bloody, with a few sneakily heavy bits that creep up and wallop you, this is a welcome new addition to the holiday horror canon. [Grade: B+]