Justin Long is the cisgender male version of a Scream Queen. In movies such as “Jeepers Creepers,” “Drag Me To Hell,” “Tusk,” and “Barbarian,” he’s established himself as one of modern horror’s go-to actors. His latest twisted turn, “It’s A Wonderful Knife” (RJLE/Shudder), is a horror/slasher reimagining of perennial winter holiday favorite “It’s A Wonderful Life.”
Henry Waters (Long with a spray-tan and funky teeth) is a greedy developer, intent on making sleepy Angel Falls the site of Waters Cove, a shopping, dining, and lifestyle destination. Following the Christmas Eve tree lighting ceremony, he corners his employee David (Joel McHale) and pulls him away from his family – wife Judy (Erin Boyes), daughter Winnie (Jane Widdop), and gay son Jimmy (Aiden Howard) – to tend to more business. That business involves trying to convince Roger Evans (William B. Davis) to sell his historic landmark house to make way for Waters Cove. He refuses and ends up brutally murdered by a masked killer dressed to resemble the tree-topping angel.
At the Carruthers home, Judy’s sister Gale (Katharine Isabelle) and her wife Karen (Cassandra Naud) arrive for the holiday. Winnie and her best friend, Evans’ granddaughter Cara (Hana Huggins), head off to a Christmas party also attended by Jimmy. The killer angel makes an appearance, and the body count rises, including Cara and her boyfriend. Winnie saves Jimmy from the killer’s clutches and unmasks him – it’s Waters!
A year later, David and Jimmy are successful real estate moguls. But Winnie still hasn’t gotten over the loss of her best friend. In addition to that, she wasn’t accepted to the BFA program to which she applied at NYU. Adding insult to injury, she catches her boyfriend Robbie (Jason Fernandes) getting down with mean girl Darla (Zenia Marshall).
Winnie makes a wish that she was never born during the appearance of the aurora borealis. Following another near-miss with the killer angel, Winnie discovers that her wish came true. No one in the town, including her family, knows who she is. The only person she’s able to convince is classmate Bernie (Jess McLeod), an outcast to whom Winnie has always been kind.
Much has occurred since the first appearance of the killer angel the year before. Waters, still alive, is the mayor and seems to have cast a spell over the citizens. Jimmy was one of the victims of the killer angel, whose murder spree has continued unabated. Winnie’s family, devastated by the murder of Jimmy (their only child since Winnie’s wish came true), is barely holding it together.
Teaming up with Bernie, and her aunt Gale (whose wife was also murdered), Winnie is determined to save Christmas in her own way. The trio manages to fight off and unmask the killer angel (NO SPOILERS HERE). Then they realize that in order for Winnie to return to her previous life, before the aurora completely fades away, they must also deal with Waters, and save the town.
Alternately scary and amusing, “It’s A Wonderful Knife” is an unexpectedly queer, and welcome addition to the growing genre of Christmas-themed horror movies.