Creators Of Holiday Slasher 'It's A Wonderful Knife' On Adding More Queer Characters
Creators Of The Holiday Slasher 'It's A Wonderful Knife' On Adding More Queer Characters
The writer and director say down with PRIDE to talk about making a super gay Christmas-themed horror movie and how two of the actors led to an onscreen romance they hadn't planned for.
Christmas-themed horror movies have long been a staple of the holiday season, from classics like Black Christmas and Silent Night Deadly Night, to more recent entries like Anna and the Apocalypse and Christmas Bloody Christmas, but finding one that is not just bloody, but also heartfelt and populated by LGBTQ+ characters is almost impossible. Lucky for us, director Tyler MacIntyre (Tragedy Girls) and queer screenwriter Michael Kennedy (Freaky) created It’s a Wonderful Knife, a slasher twist on the classic Christmas movie told through a queer lens.
The film follows Winnie (played by Jane Widdop of Yellowjackets fame) who has to save her small town from a masked killer at Christmastime. The following year her family is trying to pretend like nothing happened while she’s suffering from survivor's guilt and after wishing herself out of existence she’s shown what the town of Angel Falls would be like without her. It’s sweet, full of fun kills and has an all-star cast including Community’s Joel McHale and horror staple Justin Long in a delightfully campy role.
Creating a horror movie with great LGBTQ+ characters was important to both Kennedy and MacIntyre, but initially Winnie’s brother Jimmy was the only textually queer character. “He’s not necessarily struggling with his queerness, it’s just kind of a part of who he is,” MacIntyre tells PRIDE. While the script was being developed, the character of Aunt Gale (played by horror veteran Katharine Isabelle) began to evolve. “Michael [Kennedy] had started writing more of a queer bent to the aunt and then … in development the producers were just very much like, ‘Lean into it, it’s okay, we can have more than one queer character’ and the studio was very supportive,” he explains. “No one was really telling us to back anything off and as a result we saw this as an opportunity to make up some ground. It’s not surprising in 2022 to have a family with more than one queer person in it.”
Courtesy of RLJE Films
Over the course of the movie Winnie befriends Bernie, an outcast played by Jess McLeod (One of Us is Lying) who she ultimately falls in love with, but originally it was left up to the audience to decide whether they were just friends or something more. It wasn’t until they were already shooting the film and discovered that the two leads had amazing onscreen chemistry that things changed. “A lot of that I have to give credit to Jane and Jess, the actors that played them, because they both were really great together,” Kennedy tells PRIDE. “But we also just had really open conversations about where these characters were going to end up as we were making the movie and they spoke up and were like, ‘We’re in love’ and we watched like two days of shooting we were like, ‘Yeah, they’re in love.’”
MacIntyre says that the relationship between the two teen girls started out as a “platonic friendship” before changes were made. “...we started layering that stuff in so it could be more of a delicate build to a romance,” he explains. “We didn’t want to have those rom-com beats, we wanted it to be more of a slow build and kind of come from a genuine place.”
Courtesy of RLJE Films
Despite creating a film full of queer characters, Kennedy wasn’t interested in telling traumatic coming out stories when he wrote the script. “I wanted this really weirdly wholesome kind of vibe to it in a way where it’s just sweet more than anything, but I also knew I wanted different types of representation of people at different points in their own identity,” he recalls. “You know, like Gale and Karen are these very confident 40-something-couple, but [Gale] has a very supportive sister who gives her son a gay rainbow, but Karen has that line about how her parents refer to them as roommates. Just kind of a little bit of an amalgamation of all these different things, where Winnie has this self discovery throughout the movie, Bernie has probably already know her whole life, she’s just afraid to state it, but then you’ve got the hornball in Jimmy which I thought was really fun.”
If you caught that mention of a “gay rainbow,” that comes from a joke early in the film that is based on Kennedy’s own lived experience. Every year Kennedy and his husband receive a rainbow Christmas ornament from his mother in law, much like the one Jimmy’s mother gives him in the film. “Having the mom say, ‘For my gay son!’ is so funny to me,” he jokes. “I would tell my husband, ‘If your mother ever comes to visit we’ll have to put all nine ornaments on the tree.’”
Not only is the film a twist on the beloved Jimmy Stewart classic, it’s also a fun slasher movie, full of bloody kills, comedic moments, a Scream-like mystery, and a heartwarming ending that wouldn’t be out of place in a typical Christmas classic.
It’s a Wonderful Knife premieres in theaters on November 10 and will be available to rent on VOD and stream on Shudder later this year. Watch the trailer below.