‘It’s a Wonderful Knife’ Review: Justin Long Carries This Holiday Slasher


The Big Picture

  • It’s A Wonderful Knife is a creative twist on the classic story, featuring a masked killer and an alternate universe plot.
  • Justin Long delivers a standout performance as the evil Mayor Waters, adding a campy yet dark edge to the film.
  • The film balances levity and horror, providing a feel-good story alongside the gory killings, making it suitable for both horror fans and non-horror fans alike.

In an era of remakes and spinoffs, coming up with a new interpretation of a story that is well-known and beloved can be tricky. This task is mostly fulfilled in It’s a Wonderful Knife, an adaptation of the celebrated Frank Chapra classic with an add-on dosage of blood and screams. Directed by Tyler MacIntyre (Tragedy Girls), this Christmas slasher is centered on Winnie Carruthers (Jane Widdop), a photography enthusiast whose life is forever altered after she takes down Angel Falls’ masked serial killer. As the people around her either move on or completely resent her, the following Christmas season has Winnie wishing that she was never born. As a result, she lands in an alternate universe where she can witness what her town would’ve looked like without her efforts to protect the community from the murderer on the loose.

It's a Wonderful Knife poster

It’s a Wonderful Knife

After saving her town from a masked serial killer, a teenage girl wishes she had never been born. As a result, she lands in an alternate universe where the murderer is still running loose.

Release Date
November 10, 2023

Tyler MacIntyre

Joel McHale, Justin Long, Katharine Isabelle

90 minutes

Main Genre

Justin Long’s Masked Killer is a Highlight in ‘It’s a Wonderful Knife’

Given that the protagonist kills the villain in the first portion of the film, the identity behind the mask is revealed early on. The decision to make the serial killer known by the audience right off the bat subverts the stereotype present in other slasher projects, such as Wes Craven’s horror classic Scream. Instead of viewers focusing on the murderer, they are more interested in how Winnie will be able to save the people of Angel Falls in an alternate universe where no one knows of her existence. This creative twist allows for one of the best performances in the film, which is that of Justin Long as Mayor Henry Waters. With goofy-looking teeth prosthetics and a high-pitched voice, Long creates a character who is not just scary, but plainly evil. His urge to destroy small businesses and slaughter any person who prevents him from building his empire is what leads him to be narcissistic and vile. Long embraces the character’s physicality and his performance stands out because he is able to caliber the campy look and politician behavior, while still having moments where he unleashes his dark side.

The killer might provide the gory scenes in It’s A Wonderful Knife, but aside from that, this film is actually a feel-good at heart. Widdop’s character is sensitive about losing her best friend and just wants the people around her to acknowledge that she is still hurting one year after the killer was detained. When she’s accidentally transported to said alternate universe, she faces the harsh reality that her family is torn apart by her brother’s death and Mayor Waters is slowly profiting off her community’s misery. In her attempt to prevent the villain from continuing to strike the people she loves without any mercy, Winnie befriends an outcast named Bernie Simon (played by Jess McLeod), and the two work together to stop Waters.

This improbable bond between the main character and Bernie makes way for a sweet and heartwarming love story amidst the bloody deaths. At the beginning of the film, it is clear that the two belong to opposite crowds, with Winnie dating a jock and Bernie being nicknamed “Weirdo” by her high school colleagues. Yet, as these two characters from different backgrounds join forces to protect Angel Falls in the alternate universe, they also fall for each other in the process. Their interaction is one of the film’s greatest assets as it connects with the Hallmark-like expectation of a cheesy romance being included in any onscreen project over the holiday season. Widdop and McLeod are a convincing duo, adding a layer of emotion to the slasher. As the body count adds up throughout the film, it is refreshing to have a few moments here and there in which these two characters are able to enjoy a night out at the movie theater and mingle. Although their interaction together has the necessary chemistry for people to root for them, it is evident that McLeod’s performance is more compelling than Widdop’s. Maybe that is due to the fact that the supporting character has her motives clearly laid out, while Winnie is just an OK final girl whose purpose in the story is to destroy the villain she has already overtaken in the film’s first 20 minutes.

The Kills Might Be Unimpressive, But ‘It’s a Wonderful Knife’ Balances Levity and Horror

Image via RLJE and SHUDDER

Aside from a toothy serial killer and a cute love story, It’s a Wonderful Knife might be a bloodier version of It’s A Wonderful Life, but its goriness isn’t what does the trick here. In fact, when it comes to the kills and the horror aspect of the film as a whole, it is fairly predictable. From Winnie’s best friend being killed at the start to other Angel Falls locals joining the body count, none of the deaths or targets actually come as a surprise and that is maybe one of the project’s missteps. Although some of the characters that were massacred are important to Winnie, they don’t have as much time onscreen to make the audience feel connected to them at all.

Despite the unimpressive kills and predictable plot, screenplay writer Michael Kennedy (also responsible for modern slasher Freaky) does excel in providing a balance between horror and jolliness throughout the project. Having both genres working together to create a Christmas-themed slasher is what keeps this film afloat for audiences. If they can buy the uplifting story of The Christmas Carol or Love Actually, they can also be captivated by the simplistic turn of events here. After all, a Christmas watch is supposed to be light and gullible, even when a masked serial killer is added to the red and green holiday bundle. While often bloody, It’s a Wonderful Knife is never too spooky for non-horror fans and never too focused on a cheesy love story for those watching the film for its gory delights. There is a little bit for everyone here, making for a pleasant enough viewing experience for this holiday season.

Rating: C+

It’s A Wonderful Knife arrives in select theaters in the U.S. on November 10. Click here for showtimes near you.

Las Vegas News Magazine

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