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FILM REVIEW: It's A Wonderful Knife (2023)

Updated: Dec 17, 2023

It's A Wonderful Knife - New Release Review

Director: Tyler MacIntyre

Starring: Jane Widdop, Justin Long, Joel McHale, Jess McLeod, Katharine Isabelle

Written by: Michael Kennedy

Produced by: Daniel Bekerman, Seth Caplan, Greg Gilreath, Adam Hendricks, Michael Kennedy

Cinematography by: Nicholas Piatnik

Original Score by: Russ Howard III


After saving her town from a psychotic killer and then wishing she had never been born, Winnie soon finds herself in a nightmare parallel universe where without her, things could be much, much worse.


Has there ever been a film copied, referenced or parodied more than Frank Capra's exquisitely iconic 'It's A Wonderful Life' ? Maybe Wes Craven's 1996 slasher 'Scream' ? So what if you took those two films and mashed them together. 'It's A Wonderful Knife' has some fun moments but sadly it just doesn't know whether to take itself seriously enough and manages to fall a bit flat.

Jane Widdop stars as Winnie Carruthers, a brainy, fun loving, independent high schooler with a seemingly perfect life. She lives at her serene home with her brother Jimmy (Aiden Howard), a hot prospect young football player and her parents David (Joel McHale) and Judy (Erin Boyes). David works for local real estate villain Henry Waters (a hilarious turn from Justin Long) who seems obsessed with becoming Mayor of Angel Falls and building his idyllic shopping experience, Waters Cove. There's only one problem. Mr. Evans, an elderly gentlemen and town legend doesn't want to sell his house to make way for the new shopping development. He is stubborn but so is Henry Waters.

This is where we are introduced to the Angel, an assassin decked out in pristinely white robes and a shiny white mask and hood. His weapon of choice is a special knife with angel wings (and sometimes an axe) and he slits Mr. Evans throat. Shortly after he also murders Mr. Evans' granddaughter Cara, who just happens to be Winnie's best friend. After surviving an attack and saving her brother Jimmy, Winnie eventually electrocutes the killer and de-masks him revealing, you guessed it...Henry Waters.

A year passes and Winnie has fallen into somewhat of a depression. Life goes on for everyone else but she can't shake the haunting memories of that fateful night when her best friend was murdered. She's lost her boyfriend and been rejected from her college of choice. Can things gets any worse? Of course they can. She runs out of her house and under the beautiful aurora of the Northern Lights she wishes she had never been born. And just like that her wish is granted. What happens next is a chaotic chase for Winnie to find out what the hell has actually happened as the entire town, including her own family, don't know who she is. Remember that scene from 'Back to the Future II' when Marty returns to Hill Valley to discover the town has plummeted into depravity. Yeah it's a bit like that but Winnie's level of acceptance is a lot higher than Marty's.

With her wish being granted Winnie has altered the timeline which means she never saved her brother and killed the Angel. Henry Waters is alive and well and is now running the town. Now she must find a way to correct her wish before the aurora disappears or she'll be stuck in this horrible reality forever.

This sounds like an absolute home run. A fantastic spin on the classic Christmas tale with a modern slasher twist. And after a very promising start the film unfortunately descends into silly tropes and tonally never knows which direction to go in. The acting is a bit all over the place too. Widdop is great at the emotional stuff and she's got one hell of a scream but there's some important scenes that don't land well (involving a huge twist) and maybe that has more to do with the writing and pacing. McHale, who is usually known for his comedy gigs actually gives a fantastic heartfelt performance as a grieving father unable to move on in the wake of the death of his child. Katharine Isabelle is always a welcome distraction and is having fun here even though her character is stick thin.

Justin Long is a notable stand out, not for his acting chops but from a pure character stand point. His villainous, ego maniac businessman and wannabe "cult leader" with strikingly goofy teeth is admittedly over the top, like he's just stepped off the set of an early 2000's Adam Sandler or Ben Stiller led comedy ensemble, but for the most part it's just really hard to not smile when he pops up onscreen. It's like watching a pantomime villain on stage.

In terms of kills, there's nothing really memorable at all, it's all fairly generic stabby stabby stuff, although there is one scene where there's more blood than expected and somehow the Angel magically scrubs the robes clean before the next scene moments later. There's an obvious lack of tension too involving the killer and his victims. To my memory there was only one scene that tried to build up any sense of tension (similar to the car escape scene from Scream 2) but it ended up just being a mechanic for the "major" twist about an hour into the film. I really felt like this reveal could've been handled a bit better in my opinion and there wasn't enough time to let it simmer in its aftermath. The finale sadly seemed super rushed and even Long's silly character becomes tiresome.

If you enjoyed scribe Michael Kennedy's previous slasher 'Freaky' or the likes of 'Totally Killer' and 'Happy Death Day' then this might be for you. Overall I think 'It's A Wonderful Knife' is a fun slasher but it fails to deliver any real scares or tension and suffers from trying to fit too much into its short runtime. Ultimately it'll be remembered for its gimmick and quirky title rather than its quality.

Verdict: ⭐️⭐️½

- Gavin Logan

'It's A Wonderful Knife' streams exclusively on Shudder from December 1st.

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