“It’s a Wonderful Knife” is a spooky spin on a classic yuletide tale that brings festive gore, wit, and seasonal glory to streaming.
Now that we’ve celebrated a gory Thanksgiving, it’s time for a clever play on the title of a Christmas classic. This holiday horror feature is brought to you by director Tyler MacIntyre (V/H/S 99) and writer Michael Kennedy (Freaky), both well-versed in the genre with twisted tales that warp stories and time.
It’s a Wonderful Knife opens to a commercial of businessman Henry Waters (Justin Long), vying to create Waters Cove, a shopping, lifestyle, and dining complex that would reinvigorate the town of Angel Falls.
The plastic, smiling face of Henry follows us from the television to town, where he is conducting the tree lighting ceremony and looking for a particular employee. He catches up to the Carruthers, Winne (Jane Widdop), Jimmy (Aiden Howard), mother Judy (Erin Boyes), and father David (Joel McHale), who were briefly celebrating a work-free affair until this.
David is supposed to secure a final home, a historic landmark, to be torn down to erect Waters Cove. While the family returns home, David leaves with Henry to seal the deal.
The duo’s arbitration with homeowner Roger Evans (William B. Davis) isn’t as easy as expected, and the old man not only plans to pass the home to his granddaughter Cara (Hana Huggins) but delivers a tongue-lashing that David should have inherited the Waters’ company instead of Henry.
With negotiations at a hostile standstill, we momentarily pivot to the Carruthers’ family Christmas Eve before Winnie departs with Cara to a party.
Briefly returning to Roger, now solo, there is a pounding coming from the front door, and when threats fail to deter the visitor, Roger investigates. He finds a perfect snowman sitting outside his door, which bursts open as a masked figure in an angel costume plunges through the doorway and slits the old man’s throat.
Meanwhile, the party is all hormones, drinking, and light bullying, typical. Outside, Cara and her boyfriend sneak off to be alone, and just as things heat up, the boy’s head is speared clean through with a candy cane, a horrific albeit festive way to die. The angel figure has returned and is now in pursuit of Cara, who is brutally killed just outside the house.
As people flee, the only person to try and help Cara is Winnie, who is soon face to face with the killer, struggling to fend off her attacker until Jimmy intervenes.
With the killer pressing a knife down on her brother, his sister acts quickly, finding jumper cables and attaching them to the angel, frying them. Revealing that Henry is the killer, we see life after the events, which has given David his own realty business, and he finds the town reinvigorated.
But one year later, Winnie is still in mourning. Having been rejected from her top college, feeling unappreciated by her parents, and catching her boyfriend cheating, Winnie only has one Christmas wish this year: to never have been born.
The writing in It’s a Wonderful Knife is strong, as the voice of Freaky returns to create another time-bending tale of different realities, using quick wit and proven talent to flip the script while delivering two equally interesting storylines.
Though the beginning starts with a bang, you’ll need to adjust to the pacing as it does slow for portions to tease out the story and construct a new one with a pivotal, clever, and undeniably funny character, Bernie (Jess McLeod), in the mix to help Winnie solve the mystery of the now rampaging angel killer.
Justin Long comes hot off his role as an antagonist in Barbarian to establish himself as a different breed of loathsome human, blending abject greed with savagery. He still plays the role of the town sleaze perfectly despite his overwhelming likability (which you’ll get to see a little bit of, too).
The rest of the cast stands up incredibly well, with Jane Widdop shifting in and out of intense emotional states, showing range and character development alongside her blasé family led by either a sunny or solemn Joel McHale. The actor’s change in disposition is key to the parallel universes aligning as Winnie struggles to navigate the even more painful alternate reality she wishes to create.
Though bleak, numb, and dangerous, the alternative narrative still has plenty of dark humor injected in just the right doses while bringing gravity and emotion to the killings and the events that have scarred our main character.
The cinematography from Nicholas Piatnik, clever lighting from Christmas bulbs to strobing cameras, and practical effects also shine here. MacIntyre makes sure you savor the gore he serves up.
From perfect arterial sprays to shocking impalements, there will surely be a few memorable kills to keep you in the spirit.
Shots are made tight, creating tension during a struggle or a crowded party, or inventively staged to initiate the perfect jump scare, contrasted with the more distant shots, such as when Winnie revisits her home, making it look too big for her while creating more physical distance between characters that only minutes before seemed inseparable.
With a star-studded cast, a compelling mystery, and a trippy timeline, It’s a Wonderful Knife should have something for all who would like a good Christmas crisis.
Now available on Shudder, stay inside, keep cozy, and catch this sharp holiday horror homage out now.