It's a Wonderful Knife

11/27/2023 08:54

Film: It’s a Wonderful Knife

Year: 2023

Director: Tyler MacIntyre

Writer: Michael Kennedy

Starring: Jane Widdop, Jess McLeod and Joel McHale



This was a movie that I was turned on via going to the Gateway Film Center. I saw part of the trailer and put it on a list of 2023 films to check out. Personally, I wish this would have been pushed to December so I could have made it a featured review. Coming out in November, I can’t fault the team behind this since that’s when it seems Christmas season starts.

Synopsis: after saving her town from a psychotic killer, Winnie Carruthers’ (Jane Widdop) life is less than wonderful. When she wishes she’d never been born, she finds herself in a nightmare parallel universe where without her, things could be much, much worse.

We start with seeing a commercial. Henry Waters (Justin Long) is trying to build a complex that will feature shops, entertainment and I believe either a hotel or housing. He is trying to take this nice town of Angel Falls and commercialize. He thinks that will make him beloved even more than he already is. I get the vibe here that this is borrowing from Gremlins 2 with Clapp.

Working for Henry is David Carruthers (Joel McHale). It sounds like he collaborated with Henry’s father and should have taken over the business. Instead, due to nepotism, it went to Henry. In order for this complex to go in, they need Roger Evans (William B. Davis) to sell his house. It is borderline considered to be a historical location, but Henry killed that. Roger’s family built up this town and he plans to leave his house to his granddaughter, Cara (Hana Huggins).

Now David is married to Judy (Erin Boyes) and they have this happy family. It is Christmas so her sister, Gale Prescott (Katharine Isabelle) comes over with her girlfriend, Karen Simmons (Cassandra Naud). David and Judy also have two children. Their daughter is Winnie and the golden child is Jimmy (Aiden Howard).

This Christmas is turned upside down when a masked killer, dressed up as the angel on the community tree, starts to kill off members of the community. As the synopsis said though, Winnie stops him. We then see the aftereffects a year later. She lost her best friend, her boyfriend is cheating on her, she doesn’t get into her dream college and her brother’s early Christmas present blows hers away. This leads to her wishing that she was never born.

That is where we get to the crux of the story. She wasn’t born so therefore, the killer wasn’t stopped. She knows who it is and they’re on to her. In this alternative universe, Henry’s younger brother who is a screw up is the sheriff, Buck (Sean Depner). Winnie’s family lost Jimmy and since she wasn’t born, they are now childless. This causes them to fall into a deep depression. Winnie seeks the aid of Bernie Simon (Jess McLeod), who is called ‘freak’ by her classmates to figure out how she can undo what she did before it is too late.

I think that should be enough for a recap and introduction to the characters. If you haven’t noticed, this is a play on It’s a Wonderful Life, that beloved Christmas movie. Since I don’t watch trailers, I thought it was a clever pun title for a holiday horror film. It is more than that though. We are taking that story and giving it a genre twist. That was something about this that I did appreciate. Our set up shows us who the killer is, has them eliminated, seeing the effects a year later to what happened before plunging us in this different version. As someone who loves movies that features alternative timelines or even just time travel, I’m here for that.

Now that I’ve set that up, let me get into how this works for the movie. The best thing this does is setting the baseline of our characters. We know that Winnie is dating Robbie Olenger (Jason Fernandes). Now there is a subplot here that I noticed from the original timeline. This gets confirmed with him soon after. It seemed odd, but it was also a minor thing so I didn’t pay too much attention there. We see that despite David working for Henry, his family is still happy. Bernie is bullied and Winnie is nice to her. When we shift to this other time, things are much different and it makes sense to motivations as to why.

Moving with this, the heart of It’s a Wonderful Life is George Bailey learning why he should be born. That life isn’t better without him. That is what we get here with Winnie. She sees what would happen to her town if that was the case. With both movies, there is that idea that when you’re depressed, you think everyone would be better off without you. These both show that the ripples that happen when someone isn’t there to alter characters. Winnie touches people’s lives in ways she doesn’t realize. I want to credit Widdop here. I thought she fit this character well. We see a range of emotions from here which I thought made this work.

Let me then shift this over to the horror aspect. I do feel that the slasher element is front in center for the opening act. When we hit the end of the first act, it becomes more of an incidental thing. The killer pops up to do a kill and that is solid. Our characters do have to avoid the killer. It did feel like it takes a backseat though for the more heartwarming side of the story. We do have a good cast of characters though that I was invested in so I’ll still credit that. That is one of the important aspects for me.

Since I’ve brought up the characters, let me delve more into them. I’ve already said my piece on Winnie and Widdop’s performance. I like McLeod as this mousy counterpart to her. She’s been beaten down by everyone for so long. We see growth there as she helps Winnie. I think these two share the screen well. I loved the roles by McHale, Isabelle, Long and Depner. They aren’t all likable characters, but they get a reaction out of me. Isabelle brought good comedy. McHale gets to show range here and I appreciated that. Outside of that, the rest rounded this out for what was needed.

All that is left then is filmmaking. Now to the other part of what makes a slasher to work, the kills. We get a decent array here. The killer tends to use a knife, but we also get like a large candy cane for one. There is a car battery kill as well. I’m not sure that would work like it does, but I’ll give leeway. The practical gore was good. There was CGI with kills that you couldn’t do without it and also blood spray. I did notice these. I do think that the cinematography was good. They frame things well. I’d also say the soundtrack fit what was needed.

In conclusion, this is a decent modern Christmas slasher film. I love that this is a dark parody of It’s a Wonderful Life. There is good heart that comes from this part of the story. Winnie and Bernie do well carrying that story. The slasher elements are used throughout, but I also feel they take a backseat. The acting is good here. Our leads are solid with McHale, Isabelle and Long being bright spots as secondary characters. I’d say this is well made. The practical effects lead the way there with the CGI bringing it down slightly. There was a bit of a pacing issue, but that’s what I have with most slasher films. This is still a fun one and would recommend giving it a viewing if you want a slasher with a bit more of a message.


My Rating: 6.5 out of 10