The Movie Waffler New Release Review - IT’S A WONDERFUL KNIFE | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - IT’S A WONDERFUL KNIFE

New Release Review - IT’S A WONDERFUL KNIFE
A young woman finds herself in a terrifying version of her town when she wishes she had never been born.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Tyler MacIntyre

Starring: Jane Widdop, Jess McLeod, Justin Long, Joel McHale, Katharine Isabelle, William B. Davis, Cassandra Naud

It's a Wonderful Knife poster

It's a Wonderful Knife jumps on two current trends in the horror genre. Firstly, it's another entry into the increasingly popular sub-genre of horror movies set at Christmas. We seem to get more and more of such movies each year as counter-programming to the obligatory slew of festive rom-coms. It also follows Happy Death Day, Freaky and Totally Killer in reworking a classic movie plot into a slasher movie. As its title not so subtly suggests, director Tyler MacIntyre's film does for It's a Wonderful Life what the aforementioned movies did for Groundhog Day, Freaky Friday and Back to the Future respectively.

If somehow you haven't seen It's a Wonderful Life: a) Why not? b) Go watch it, it's a classic for a reason c) Here's the gist. Taking its cues from Dickens' A Christmas Carol, the film sees a desperate man consider jumping off a bridge at Christmas, only for an angel named Clarence to intervene and show him the hellscape his home town of Bedford Falls would become in his absence.

It's a Wonderful Knife review

Here, Bedford Falls becomes Angel Falls. Following the established trend of this sub-genre, the protagonist is now a young blonde woman, Winnie (Jane Widdop). On Christmas Eve death comes to Angel Falls in the guise of a killer cloaked in an outfit cleverly modelled on a Christmas tree angel. After claiming some victims, including Winnie's best friend, the masked attacker is killed by Winnie. Unmasked, the killer is revealed to be the town's sleazy mayor and unscrupulous property developer Waters (Justin Long), who seemingly planned to kill off a bunch of the town's teenagers so their parents would sell their homes.

A year later we find Winnie suffering from depression. Nobody in the town, including her own family, is willing to speak with her about the traumatic events of the previous Christmas Eve. She's harassed by Waters' brother. And she catches her boyfriend cheating with one of her friends. Heading to the town bridge, Winnie verbally expresses her wish that she had never been born.

All of these movies have to come up with some pseudo scientific reason to explain their plots, and here we have a rare sighting of the Aurora Borealis, which somehow grants Winnie her dark wish. Winnie finds that Waters is still alive and is continuing to slaughter her town's residents. Can she expose Waters and reset her reality?

It's a Wonderful Knife review

MacIntyre is working with a lower budget on this indie production than the previous studio-funded examples of this type of slasher, but he aims to lasso the moon regardless. He takes advantage of his limited means by giving his film the look of a seasonal Hallmark Christmas romance in its opening scenes, bathing the town in the traditional red and green colour scheme. Following Winnie's wish, the colour is drained to represent the town's descent into terror. It's like going from the Adam West Batman to Christian Bale Batman, and may well be a wry commentary on the drabness of so many modern horror movies (MacIntyre's horror movies are always distinctively awash with colour).

This is reflected in a script that wittily riffs on the sort of plots that fuel the annual swathe of Christmas movies. Initially Winnie is exactly the sort of sunny protagonist you find in such films, and Widdop is very good in transitioning into the troubled young woman we later encounter. Equally impressive is Jess McLeod as Bernie, a teenage girl bullied by her peers who becomes Winnie's "Clarence" and helps her take down Waters. It's a clever move on the part of screenwriter Michael Kennedy (co-writer of Freaky) to have Winnie aided by the one person in town who is willing to listen to her seemingly crazy claims simply because Bernie is so desperate for any sort of human company. It's an affecting subplot and McLeod plays the part in such a touching manner that you may find your eyes watering a little, especially when the full mental toil of her torment is revealed.

It's a Wonderful Knife review

The movie certainly has heart, but some of you gorehounds will be asking if it has guts? Yes, given its Hallmark movie influence it's surprisingly bloody, and blood on snow is always a striking image. Decking the killer out in a snow white outfit (like a reversal of Scream's Ghostface) makes for some great shots of the angel costume covered in its victim's blood. As the killer/mayor, Long is wonderfully unlikable, channeling the spirit of a thousand fraudulent televangelists. Between this and Barbarian he seems to have reinvented himself as the go to guy for characters you instantly want to punch.

Mixing laughs with bloody set-pieces and some genuine pathos, It's a Wonderful Knife is ideal viewing for that period between Halloween and Christmas, which for horror fans is quickly becoming the most wonderful time of the year.

It's a Wonderful Knife is on Shudder UK/ROI from December 1st.

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