A Christmas Movie Without the Spirit
In the past few years, it has become a phenomenon to take popular films with recognizable gimmicks and twist them into slasher movies. Writer and director Christopher Landon popularized it with his films Happy Death Day, which played off of Groundhog Day, and Freaky, which took the concept from Freaky Friday and gave it a horror coating. Just a month earlier, the Amazon original Totally Killer used Back to the Future as the basis for its slasher story. Now, the beloved Christmas film, It’s a Wonderful Life received the same treatment with the new slasher film, It’s a Wonderful Knife.
It’s a Wonderful Knife follows high schooler Winnie Carruthers (Jane Widdop), who discovers the town’s mayor, Henry Waters (Justin Long), is a masked killer and ends up saving her town on Christmas Eve. Now, a year later, she finds herself wishing she was never born, whereby she becomes transported to another reality where she never existed. Here, she finds that without her existence, no one ever stopped the masked killer and the murder spree continued. Discovering how much worse everyone’s life is without her, she tries to once again stop the killer and find a way back to her reality.
A Sincere Heart
Since it parodies It’s a Wonderful Life, the movie naturally has a heart-warming element. The theme of how one person influences other lives without ever knowing it added a heartfelt component that isn’t necessarily present in other slasher films. It helped add a cheerfulness to the movie, which ultimately left it leaning in a positive direction rather than being dreary like most films in the genre.
Despite the jolly nature of the movie, the story is predictable and monotonous. Although the masked killer’s identity is revealed in the opening scene, the movie tries to add in other twists and turns that aren’t surprising. Being a slasher, there isn’t a need for there to be shocking revelations outside of who lives and dies by the time the credits roll. But when the film attempts to incorporate moments of big revelations and fails, it adds another frustrating component to an already tedious story.
Slasher films are typically stuffed with characters who are purely there to be walking body bags. Audiences don’t have any attachment to them, as they serve no purpose other than to be brutally killed by the villain so the main characters aren’t taken too soon. Great slasher films can have characters who are well-developed and distinct and who leave an impact on viewers, even if they are on screen for a brief period of time. Unfortunately, the entire cast of characters fit primarily in the walking body bags category. Most, if not all, of the secondary cast is one-noted and unlikable, making their deaths all the more ineffective.
Similar to the secondary character, the protagonist, Winnie, comes off as tiresome and dull. Jane Widdop did her best with the material, but the character was lacking a spark that would make her more intriguing. Her relationship and chemistry with another character named Bernie Simon (Jessica McLeod) also felt a little hollow. The relationship between the two is uninteresting, and how they eventually come together to form a friendship feels clunky.
The most interesting character in the film is the villain, Henry Waters. The character himself is poorly developed, however, Justin Long’s performance helps elevate him above what was given in the script. Long appears to be having a blast performing the character; he is very energetic and enthusiastic. His performance has a cartoonish, quirky element to it that stands out from everything else present in the film, making him a magnet whenever he’s on screen.
A Costume That Kills
Arguably, a vital aspect of any slasher film is the killer’s appearance. Over the past few years, it seemed as if filmmakers have lapsed in coming up with fun and creative killer outfits. With It’s a Wonderful Knife being set around Christmas, it was great seeing the creators find a fun way to represent the killer by having an all-white angel costume that also reflects the setting of the film. The faceless mask also helped invoke the holiday spirit by being nostalgic for typical faceless angels that adorn the top of Christmas trees, while also being unsettling.
Beyond the costume, the filmmakers were able to incorporate creative and thrilling kill sequences that are distinct from other slashers. While they didn’t utilize the Christmas setting to have more holiday-inspired killings, they found ways to make memorable kills for slasher fans. These moments are few and far between though, which can make the movie feel dull during these periods. Adding in a few more action sequences could have helped prevent the film from feeling as if it dragged at certain moments when the story is crawling along.
There are a few brief moments in the film that try to be creative with the lighting to add a level of intensity, but ultimately make the scenes worse in the process. One sequence takes place in an empty movie theater where the lights are shut off. The only source of light comes from brief flashes that last on screen for what feels like less than a second. While it’s interesting to only give viewers a glimpse into the chaos that’s ensuing on screen, it made the sequence irritating and frustrating. Also, having quick flashes of white light in a dark theater doesn’t mix well in attempting to create an enjoyable scene.
While It’s a Wonderful Knife has enjoyable aspects, it overall comes off more as a low-budget CW channel project than a quality slasher. Its story provides little to care about, while its characters are overall bland. The theme and message of the film are more heartfelt than your typical horror movie, while still providing interesting kill scenes to give other slashers a run for their money. However, in the end, it’s missing some spirit to make it watchable.
It’s a Wonderful Knife is currently playing in theaters.
Official It’s a Wonderful Knife Trailer