Dir. Tyler MacIntyre (2023)
A woman who recently stopped a serial killer shortly after he murdered her friends wishes that she had never been born, throwing her into a world where the serial killer is still alive and wreaking havoc.
What is it about the Christmas holiday in particular that makes people want to gather around the television and watch classic holiday films? Sure, it happens with Halloween as well, but that's largely because it's the one time of year when horror fans don't feel like outcasts for loving what they love and they can actually embrace the films that make them happy. But Christmas is filled with sappy movies, feelgood stories that have a place at any other time of the year as well. One of the sappiest (and one of the best) films of the season is, of course, Frank Capra's classic film It's a Wonderful Life, in which George Bailey wishes he had never been born and gets to see what the town of Bedford Falls would be like without him. Not one to be outdone, writer Michael Kennedy (Freaky) and director Tyler MacIntyre (Tragedy Girls) have made a horror film with the same premise, featuring some stylish cinematography, outlandish kills, and general holiday merriment.
Winnie (Jane Widdop) survives a vicious attack by the Angel Killer, resulting in the killer's death at her hands. Unfortunately, several of her friends were murdered before she's able to defeat the killer, and Winnie's life begins to fall apart soon after. At the end of her rope, she wishes that she had never been born, throwing her into an alternate reality in which the killer is still alive and causing mayhem all around the town of Angel Falls. She is forced to take action when she realizes that the killings have continued, throwing her into a fight for survival with her remaining friends while trying to save the town once again.
MacIntyre is a brilliant new director in the genre, bringing fresh ideas (despite this film's rehash of a classic plot) and a stimulating sense of humor to the genre with some slasher charm and, in this case, full-on holiday spirit. It's a Wonderful Knife is filled with famous faces, with performances from Joel McHale, Katharine Isabelle, and an especially hateable (and ridiculously spray-tanned) Justin Long. There are some genuine laughs and some incredibly brutal kills, providing lots of "oh shit!" moments for the horror faithful and containing enough yuletide vigor to be a surprisingly watchable film even if you're not a big fan of the genre.
It's surprising, to be honest, that no one had made this exact film before. It's a Wonderful Life was made in 1946, which feels impossibly long ago to not have been lampooned by a genre film before. Sure, there are other films with a similar message, like Groundhog Day and even Happy Death Day. But It's a Wonderful Knife follows its forebearer very closely, almost coming across as a straight-up horror remake of the classic film. It's also surprisingly good, a film that is readily rewatchable and could easily find its place on a yearly mix of holiday horror. There's enough here to make any horror fan happy, and while it's not going to make its way onto any Best Of lists for the year, it's a cute and heartwarming film that is much better than I expected.
I've enjoyed analyzing the recent tendency in films to indulge Gen Z and their various practices, a trend that has carried its fair share of criticisms and rebuke. There are certainly some sins that have been carried out in the name of pandering, like in the obnoxiously "modern" Santa Isn't Real from earlier in this year's 13 Days of Christmas. Generational wars are always difficult to parse, and while there will always come a moment where the newest generation fades into the general populace, we're currently in a place where everyone who has come before is ready to hate on this new group of young adults. However, this was one area where I felt It's a Wonderful Knife performed particularly well, telling this story about a younger generation where they were regular, everyday people, their new trends and beliefs fitting right into the story without making a fuss or doing anything to irritate those who aren't completely ready for that part of the journey.
At the end of the day, this film isn't anything particularly new or groundbreaking. The kills, while spectacular, aren't inventive, they're just good. The performances, likewise, do plenty enough to carry the story and help with the emotional impact of the film. The LGBT focus, which has become ever more commonplace in horror in the last several years, feels natural and well-placed. All in all, It's a Wonderful Knife is not just a good Christmas horror movie, it's a fairly good horror movie altogether. It's cute, entertaining, and bloody enough to please even the most discerning gorehound. Give it a shot this Christmas.
Who this movie is for: Christmas horror lovers, Slasher movie fans, Small town mayors
Bottom line: It's a Wonderful Knife is an interesting horror take on the holiday classic, and it's a decent flick in its own right. It's funny, clever, and brutal as hell, putting the holy shit in holidays. It's a Gen Z film, and if that bothers you, you might not enjoy it, in which case I'd tell you to get over yourself and try to have some fun. The performances are delightful and it is filled to the brim with Christmas spirit, exactly what's needed for a holiday horror flick. Check it out streaming on Shudder this Christmas.