What with the Christmas horror parodies “The Mean One” and “Violent Night” and “Amityville Christmas Vacation” et al., it’s probably only a matter of time before we get “Rudolph the Bloody Red Reindeer” and “Death Actually” and “The Chop Around the Corner.” The latest gore-filled present under the rotted Christmas tree is “It’s a Wonderful Knife,” a great title for a pretty good idea that unfortunately plays out in predictably bloody fashion and suffers from medium-level production values.
Directed by the talented Tyler MacIntyre, who helmed the razor-sharp slasher/satire “Tragedy Girls” (2017) and wrote the smash hit “Five Nights at Freddy’s,” and featuring a promising cast including reliable veterans Justin Long and Joel McHale, “It’s a Wonderful Knife” is exactly what that title tells you it will be: a slasher film takeoff on “It’s a Wonderful Life,” complete with an extended fantasy/alternate reality sequence in which the lead character wishes she’d never been born — and learns you really have to be careful what you wish for.
Set in the town of Angel Falls (“Christmas Capital of the World”), our story begins with the plucky teen Winnie Carruthers (Jane Widdop from “Yellowjackets”) celebrating Christmas Eve with her father David (Joel McHale), her mother Judy (Erin Boynes) and her brother Jimmy (Aiden Howard), when her dad is called away to work by the despicable, veneers-wearing Henry Waters (Justin Long). The boss needs to knock down the home of the beloved Roger Evans (William B. Davis, aka the Cigarette Smoking Man from “”The X-Files”), in order to build an enormous and garish project called Waters’ Cove. (Kudos to Justin Long for affecting an accent that makes it sound like he’s imitating Dustin Hoffman’s Dorothy Michaels in “Tootsie,” for absolutely no reason. It’s weird and great.)
RLJE Films presents a film directed by Tyler MacIntyre and written by Michael Kennedy. Running time: 87 minutes. Rated R (for bloody violence, drug use and language). Opens Thursday at local theaters.
After Roger refuses to sign over the rights, a masked killer who looks like a demented angel stabs him to death — and later strikes at a teens’ Christmas party, killing Roger’s granddaughter and Winnie’s best friend Cara (Hana Huggins). Winnie manages to save her brother by killing the masked maniac, who is revealed to be … well, you can probably figure it out.
Cut to a year later. Winnie is still in a deep funk, while the rest of the townsfolk, including her cheerful family, just want to move on and continue with their Hallmark-style holiday celebrations. After a particularly rough night, Winnie gazes up at the Aurora Borealis and wishes she’d never been born — and boom, just like that, Angel Falls has been transformed into a kind of Pottersville (the movie marquee advertises, “I Know What You Did Last Christmas”), with Henry Waters running everything.
Even worse, the serial killer known as “The Angel” is alive and has killed more than two dozen victims, including Winnie’s brother. With the help of the local outcast Bernie (Jess McLeod), who becomes somewhat of a Clarence figure, it’s up to Winnie to figure out a way to end this nightmare and make her way back to that life she foolishly wished away.
As you’d expect, “It’s a Wonderful Knife” is filled with blood-spattered twists on holiday movie tropes. Unfortunately, there are few surprises and only a handful of genuine scares, and the film suffers from subpar lighting and occasionally clunky editing. It’s a “Knife” in need of some sharpening.