It’s a Wonderful Knife (2023)
Director: Tyler MacIntyre
Screenwriter: Michael Kennedy
Starring: Jane Widdop, Joel McHale, Justin Long, Jess McLeod, Katherine Isabelle, Cassandra Naud
One has to wonder if a review for a film titled It’s A Wonderful Knife needs any introduction, but one must be written regardless. If you think it might have some twist to what the title would suggest, please allay those fears: it’s exactly what you think it is. Knife is a slasher take on It’s A Wonderful Life, the 1946 Frank Capra film starring Jimmy Stewart, a man who wishes his life never existed and through visiting an alternate timeline at Christmas, comes to appreciate what he had. Here we have a play on the same thing, with Jimmy Stewart being replaced by Jane Widdop’s Winnie, who stopped the Angel Falls masked killer one year before, and when ending up in a timeline where she never existed, finds the killer still on the loose, now with over 25 kills under his belt. If Winnie doesn’t stop the killer before the end of the night, she’ll never get back to her home world.
When you realise that Michael Kennedy also wrote the screenplay to Christopher Landon’s 2020 slasher film Freaky, a slasher sendup of classic Lindsay Lohan/Jamie Lee Curtis film Freaky Friday, you know what you’re in for. It’s a film that isn’t afraid to lean into the film it’s stealing its storyline from. It’s going to be pretty campy, silly in parts following teen outsiders coming together in the strangest of circumstances, with a decent production budget, and everyone knows what they’re doing. There’s never an attempt to be anything it isn’t and there are a few people who overdo the acting for the sheer joy and fun of it. Case in point, horror veteran Justin Long as the smarmy corporate businessman Henry Waters, doing his best capitalist megalomaniac impression. It’s overdone to a Matthew Lillard Thirteen Ghosts level, but so good for it. As the kids would say, he understood the assignment.
The cinematography from Nicholas Piatnik is great, full of christmas lights managing to set off the darkness well. It’s a film of contrasts, of light and dark, of neon greed shining out in a world that has forgotten hope and faith. In a film like this which is, despite the bloody slayings, warm and cosy, the atmosphere is perfectly captured. Of course, congratulations also go to the art direction by Louisa Birkin, and set dressing by Matt Carson and Jan Sikora for helping Piatnik get the lighting right with the practicals. It’s a wonderfully cohesive film in terms of its visual aesthetic, and when the blood hits the snow and the white costume of the killer, the blood is dark and visceral, which only works in contrast to the vibrant lighting. It’s a gorgeous looking film.
It’s a Wonderful Knife also isn’t afraid to go the whole way with its anti-capitalist statement. Its whole sentiment is that greed and complicit non-action in the thuggish, brutal ways to establish corporate dominance is not only manifest in physical actions, but is a kind of mental virus, capable of taking over the minds of those watching. It preys on grief. It preys on when we are at our lowest. Even those vehemently opposed to megalomaniacal corporations taking advantage of the lower classes still order from Amazon on occasion. In this way, Knife manages to take criticism of capitalist greed further than other films which might otherwise just have a statement of ‘capitalism bad’ as their fundamental premise.
But despite all this praise, there are parts that aren’t fantastic on a technical front. A few moments are very on-the-nose with their dialogue, expositionally overdoing the points we already know. The first kill is badly done, seeming like it’s cut to hide any effects work that they apparently haven’t done. Either that or it’s just badly cut. And even though Justin Long is perfectly embodying the smarmy businessman, one could say it’s overdone even past the point of campiness; overdoing an overdone performance. It’s how you take it.
So it isn’t perfect. Perhaps the messages are heavy handed, as subtle as a candy cane to the throat. But who cares? It’s not the greatest film in the world, but the main cast is great, the visuals are very Hallmark, and it’s got a cute ending. So on a cold night, if you’re fed up with the regular Christmas films, this 90 minute blast might just hit the spot for some holiday horror hooliganism.