1 of 5 | A killer stalks Christmas in "It's a Wonderful Knife." Photo courtesy of RLJE Films and Shudder
LOS ANGELES, Nov. 6 (UPI) -- It's a Wonderful Knife, in theaters Friday, is a fun slasher movie homage to the Christmas classic, It's a Wonderful Life. The film fulfills both parts of that equation -- the horror and the Christmas spirit.
Developer Henry Waters (Justin Long) is trying to modernize the small town of Angel Falls. Roger Evans (William B. Davis) is the last holdout who won't sell his home.
On Christmas Eve, a killer in a white hood murders Evans, his granddaughter, Cara, (Hana Hughes) and Cara's boyfriend, Eddie (Oscar Chark). Winnie Carruthers (Jane Widdop) manages to kill the killer in self-defense and expose his identity.
One year later, Winnie is struggling with life in Angel Falls. She's been rejected by NYU, her parents (Joel McHale and Erin Boyes) ignore the trauma Winnie's been through, and Winnie discovers her boyfriend cheating on her at a Christmas party.
So, Winnie wishes she was never born, like Jimmy Stewart did in the Frank Capra movie, and gets her wish.
It's interesting how the most famous part of It's a Wonderful Life, George Bailey (Stewart) seeing what life would be like if he never were born, was only the end of the movie. Like most homages, Wonderful Knife gets to that right in the first act.
Angel Falls without Winnie is further complicated because no one killed the killer, so he's still active. There are fewer Angel Falls citizens in the new reality because they've been killed, including members of the Carruthers family.
Winnie turns to a bullied social outcast, Bernie (Jess McLeod), for help figuring out how to wish herself back to the reality in which she was born. In the meantime, Winnie has to save her friends and family from the killer all over again.
The slasher scenes are well-filmed by director Tyler MacIntyre, a veteran of horror films like Patchwork and Tragedy Girls. The hooded killer comes out of nowhere and jabs his knife through unexpected gaps to reach his victims.
Winnie trying to convince the town who the killer is gets a bit pedantic. However, every time she encounters the killer, she manages to get his mask off, which was always the most frustrating part of Scream movies.
Like the Christmas classic, Winnie learns what she meant to people beyond taking care of the killer. Even though her friends and family could never express it directly, seeing their lives without her illustrates the positive impact she had.
The strongest theme of Wonderful Knife is the friendship between Winnie and Bernie. Their lives didn't intersect much in the first reality, but this Christmas miracle allows them to discover a sincere connection.
After all the darkness, It's a Wonderful Knife concludes with an endearingly bubbly Christmas morning. It's all in good fun, as the cheesy holiday vibe is as endearing as the macabre slasher movie.
Shudder will stream It's a Wonderful Knife after it plays theaters.
Fred Topel, who attended film school at Ithaca College, is a UPI entertainment writer based in Los Angeles. He has been a professional film critic since 1999, a Rotten Tomatoes critic since 2001, and a member of the Television Critics Association since 2012 and the Critics Choice Association since 2023. Read more of his work in Entertainment.