Jane Widdop in It's a Wonderful Knife

‘It’s a Wonderful Knife’ Offers Little Beyond a Clever Title

2/5 bloody candy canes.

Here’s the thing: I wanted to love It’s a Wonderful Knife. Really, I did. The Christmas horror comedy has a lot going for it: A high-concept idea, a talented cast, and most of the characters are queer? Shut up and take my money. Unfortunately, Tyler MacIntyre’s (Tragedy Girls) film fails to deliver on its premise. As a comedy, the laughs are few and far between. And as a horror movie, the scares are minimal and the kills are uninspired. And it’s a shame because this film shows so much promise.

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It’s a Wonderful Knife takes place in the picturesque small town of Angel Falls, where Winnie Carruthers (Yellowjackets‘ Jane Widdop) is celebrating Christmas with her mom Judy (Erin Boyes), dad David (Joel McHale), and football star brother Jimmy (Aiden Howard). Or at least they would be if David’s creepy business partner Henry Waters (Justin Long) wasn’t pushing to close a last-minute deal on Christmas Eve. Waters plans to build a lavish shopping center in the small town, and it’s instantly clear from Long’s smarmy slick performance that his character is up to no good.

At a raucous party, Winnie and her friends are attacked by a masked killer dressed as an angel. In the ensuing fight, Winnie’s best friend dies, and she and her brother are nearly murdered before Winnie electrocutes the Angel. Removing his mask, she is horrified to discover that the killer is Henry Waters.

The film then jumps to a year later, where the town has mostly forgotten about the murders and everyone has moved on—everyone except for Winnie, who mourns her friend and is still processing her trauma. Much like George Bailey, Winnie wishes she was never born, and through some Aurora Borealis-themed magic that the film doesn’t bother explaining, she’s transported to a world where she never existed.

This dark version of Angel Falls is now a ghost town where Waters is the mayor AND continues to murder someone every few weeks. The townspeople have responded to this new normal by doing hard drugs … and little else. You would think after a year of unrelenting serial killing they would arm themselves, form a neighborhood watch, or at least stop wandering off alone, but nope. Winnie finds the town traumatized, her family destroyed, and many friends dead. The only person on her side is school weirdo Bernie (Jess McLeod). We know she’s the school weirdo because everyone keeps calling her that. The two share a tentative romance that feels forced and unearned.

IAWK struggles to find the right tone. Some actors, like Long and Katharine Isabelle(as Winnie’s aunt Gale), lean into the dark humor, while others play their roles with a deadly seriousness that is downright dreary. There are plenty of allusions to horror classics, time travel films, and It’s a Wonderful Life, but the film struggles to offer any new or insightful takes on the genre. This would be fine if the film had some style or momentum, but at an hour and 27 minutes, the film drags. The characters are thinly sketched, so you don’t care what happens to them. And the humor is nearly non-existent. What should be a witty romp instead feels like a first draft of an idea. And that’s a shame because the film has so much going for it. I was hoping for a wicked Christmas treat, but It’s a Wonderful Knife feels more like a lump of coal in your stocking.

(featured image: Shudder)

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Image of Chelsea Steiner
Chelsea Steiner
Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. An pop culture journalist since 2012, her work has appeared on Autostraddle, AfterEllen, and more. Her beats include queer popular culture, film, television, republican clownery, and the unwavering belief that 'The Long Kiss Goodnight' is the greatest movie ever made. She currently resides in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband, 2 sons, and one poorly behaved rescue dog. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.