Tuesday, November 07, 2023

It’s a Wonderful Knife, Co-Starring Joel McHale

Lionel Barrymore's nasty financier in It’s a Wonderful Life won’t look so bad anymore after watching this movie. Sure, he’s greedy and unethical, but he isn’t violent. George Bailey and Bedford Falls didn’t know how good they had it. Over in Angel Falls, rapacious town developer Henry Waters also happens to be a serial killer. Winnie Carruthers stopped him on the night of his first killings, naturally on Christmas Eve. Unfortunately, next year, when Carruthers is feeling unappreciated in the manner moody Gen Z’ers so often do, she wishes she had never been born and magically gets her wish. To return to how things were, she must stop Waters again in Tyler MacIntyre’s It’s a Wonderful Knife, which opens this Friday in theaters.

Waters wanted Roger Evans’ old family home, but the unintimidated old man refuses to sell, promising to pass it along to his granddaughter Cara instead. In his “Snow Angel” costume (which almost too closely resembles Moon Knight), Waters slashes Evans to death at home and then does the same to his granddaughter at the Christmas party she was attending. Things get pretty messy at this point, but Carruthers manages to save her brother Jimmy and kill the homicidal Waters.

A year later, everybody seems to be taking her for granted. NYU declined to accept her, which rather makes sense now, since she prevented mass murders, rather than demonstrating in favor of them. Her parents, David and Julie, focus solely on Jimmy and her boyfriend is openly cheating on her. Hence, her George Bailey wish. Then, presto, she finds Angel Falls is suddenly a dreary shadow of its former self, broken by the Snow Angel’s year-long reign of terror. Sadly, nobody is more damaged than her family, with the exception of her cool aunt Gale Prescott (a
Scream reference, as horror fans have surely heard by now). Aside from Prescott, only the perennially bullied Bernie Simon (a.k.a. “Weirdo”) might help her and maybe also make her rethink her orientation.

Probably a third of
Knife’s characters are LGBTQ which is way over the actual 7.1% share of the population, according to google. In contrast, 13% of the population are disabled (again, per google), but there are no such characters in Knife. There are no Jewish characters either. Apparently, MacIntyre and screenwriter Michael Kennedy believe some people deserve to be over-represented and other should be made invisible. Merry Christmas, if Knife thinks you should be seen in public.

This point is worth making because
Knife is so preoccupied with identity and representational issues. As a result, it starts out slow as molasses and craters with a downbeat, almost surreal climax. In between, there is an underdeveloped germ of a clever movie, somewhat akin to Happy Death Day or Totally Killer, which had issues of its own.

Joel McHale is surprisingly good, projecting David Carruthers’ profound sadness. Katherine Isabelle also brings some needed energy as Prescott, the fun aunt. However, Justin Long’s weird cartoonish portrayal of Waters consistently alters the mood of the film, from scary to ridiculous. All he is missing is a t-shirt that says “world’s greatest serial killer.” To compound the problems, Jane Widdop and Jess McLeod are bland and charmless as Carruthers and Simon.

Christmas horror movies are even more fun when they work, because they are subversive in a healthy, take-no-prisoners kind of way—good examples being
Pooka!, Better Watch Out, and Anna and the Apocalypse. This is not one of them. It is too much like bad CW shows. Not recommended, It’s a Wonderful Knife is not recommended when it opens Friday (11/10) in New York, at the Regal E-Walk.